I have written numerous times how there permeates a culture of corruption within El Paso. Most of you are familiar with the numerous government officials that plead guilty or were convicted under the Poisoned Pawns operation by the FBI. I have also tried to explain that corruption is not simply exchanging money for favoritism. Corruption is not simple bribery because it does not necessarily have to benefit someone financially. As a matter of fact, in one case both Gilbert Sanchez and Luther Jones were convicted for conspiring to corrupt a bid that never went out to bid. The County lost no money and Jones and Sanchez did not benefit from the scheme because the project was never awarded. Former Ft. Bliss commander Dana Pittard is just another example of the culture of corruption that permeates throughout El Paso.

According to a February 6, 2015 admonishment letter, Pittard is accused of providing preferential treatment to two former classmates for a renewable energy project at Ft. Bliss. The reprimand letter admonishes Pittard for “improperly creating the perception of preferential treatment” in the deal. The Washington Post, on June 21, 2015, identified one of the former classmates as Thomas Gregory Harris.

According to the Army Times, Thomas Gregory Harris was sentenced to two years in prison for wire fraud recently. Harris is one of Pittard’s former classmates.

Pittard has not been accused of benefiting financially from his involvement in the project but he has nonetheless been reprimanded for interfering with the purchasing process. This is a form of public corruption. Pittard commanded Ft. Bliss from July 2010 through May 2013.

Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard is from El Paso. He graduated from Eastwood High School in 1977.

The $250 million contract was supposed to have made Ft. Bliss energy self-sufficient. Instead, after spending $492,000, the future of the project is undetermined. As with almost all cases of public corruption, this investigation was started in 2011 from an anonymous tip to government officials.

Pittard told the news media that it wasn’t about receiving money but rather about expediting the energy self-sufficiency project through the bureaucracy.

Therein lies the problem with public corruption.

As I have written before, public corruption includes public officials ignoring their responsibilities, looking for ways to bypass processes and allowing taxpayer funds to be wasted on pet projects, among other things. Look carefully at the examples I just shared in the sentence above with the following examples and I believe you can clearly see what I mean.

For example, the recent loss by Stephanie Townsend Allala’s quest for government transparency is clearly corruption in that government officials have ignored the fundamental right of the people’s right to have government deliberations done in public. Instead, what the system has done is hide behind legal loopholes to allow officials to conduct business out of the public’s eye.

Before David Karlsruher starts to scream about the Fourth Amendment, he should take a deep breath and acknowledge that Steve Ortega has publicly stated that he has in his possession government records that he has refused to release. That is the nexus to Townsend Allala’s case. The City used legal subterfuge to allow Ortega to withhold the public records.

Another example are the San Jacinto debacle and Margarita Cabrera’s Uplift sculpture. In the case of San Jacinto, there is much information that is being withheld that will show that the City is the one that created the mess to begin with. The public perception is being managed to create the illusion that it is the contractor that is at fault, when the evidence seems to show that the problem are cables being made in Germany and City ineptitude on the initial design plans.

In the case of the sculpture, the facts we now know strongly show that the city manager, Tommy Gonzalez, bypassed the normal processes and acted at the behest of a neighborhood association through at least one city representative. The result is that the taxpayers are now spending money in litigation.

Both of these cases clearly show that the City is corruptly using executive session to keep the public at arm’s length.

Finally, just look at the debacle of the El Paso Children’s Hospital. No matter what side of the issue you stand on there is one undeniable fact. It is that the taxpayers funded the hospital that is now in bankruptcy. The taxpayers are now paying legal fees to try to salvage some amount of their investment. From its inception, Veronica Escobar has been involved as well as Sam Legate and Rosemary Castillo and yet the only thing the public knows is that no one knows anything and the bills just continue to pile up.

These are but three of the most recent examples.

However, they are part of an ongoing corruption that permeates through the whole city.

Pittard is not the only example at the federal level. Remember, Hardrick Crawford (this was updated at 10:49 ET on June 26, 2015 to correct the Crawford’s name), the FBI Agent in Charge that was jailed for lying about his association to drug-related individuals? I have written about him before.

The City and County have former officials involved in the Poisoned Pawns cases. Not one, not two but many of them. Of course, you all know about the corruption at the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD). Do you also remember the numerous police officers investigated for lying on government reports to get paid overtime?

All of them have two very important things in common. Many individuals were ostracized publicly for daring to argue that there was corruption. Most of the corruptors are from El Paso or have spent most of their formative years in the city.

More importantly, as you can see, they involve all levels of government in the city.

This is the most important key to remember, El Paso’s economy revolves around government work. Without government largess, the city’s economy would not exist. Corruption greases the wheels.

Now, as you ponder this, consider how your government officials continue to champion closed-door meetings and ask yourself, how many more corruptors are in your midst?

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

6 replies on “The Culture of Corruption: Dana Pittard”

  1. Cronyism and nepotism are the main forms of corruption here. I don’t think that bribes and kick-backs loom as large as they did in the Jones era. I mean, as sleazy as the stadium deal was, it was also legal and no evidence of corruption has surfaced unless you call Wilson and Carmen’s lies to the public corruption.

    Cronyism is subtle, too, like you couldn’t get a teaching job at EPCC unless you had a relative there to speak for you. Then, they waived degree requirements, too, for relatives and were almost dis-accredited. At the city, it pays to have a friend in the department you are applying to work for, too, a reason why so many unqualified people work there. I don’t know about the county, but it probably holds true there.

    This is OK in the private sector because private businesses can make decisions any way they want to. But we don’t have a private sector here. This is a government town full of Mexicans.

  2. There is no greater evidence of that cronyism and unethical, corrupt behavior than the emails Max Power has posted that show Veronica Escobar advocating and using her influence on behalf of friends and their kids or possibly even her own kid in getting quick service or landing them coveted internships. Even more disgusting is her besmirching private citizens and together with Valentin, bullying them like the worst teenager and plotting their schemes. (And not to mention that it reveals her indignation over Valenti’s bonus is just a charade). That woman is a it just corrupt (even if no money was exchanged) she is a sociopath. She should be as far away from public office as possible. It will take years to repair the damage she has caused this community.

  3. Martin, you clearly presented the problem with El Paso. Great piece !

    These people grow up in a culture that either doesn’t care, doesn’t understand Orr ignores corruption, feel above the law. Malfeasance of office is very typical of El Paso. Especially in county commissioners court. Where the court is ruled by one person. The rest of the commissioners are just figureheads.

    Progressive? The only progress is deeper debt, more bad policy and bad government. At least Putin doesn’t hide behind the term progressive. He’s proud of being a communist. Take a minute and make an objective analysis of the county. No management just directives. No difference.

    It’s time that one person rule at county be challenged and ended. If the so called commissioners won’t grow a pair at least cut hers.

  4. Instead of out-and-out corruption, we have crony capitalism and nepotism. It still hurts the taxpayer.

  5. Haiduc, let the rest of the nation handle their problems. We have enough going on here. Saying others do it doesn’t solve anything.

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