scratchmyback138For those of you that still do not believe that El Paso is a scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours kind of town I’m going to offer you another example as proof. As most of you remember, Leila Melendez was Joyce Wilson’s Chief of Staff at the city when Wilson was the city manager. Melendez was the facilitator for many of the things that many of us complain that has led El Paso to the financial crisis it is heading towards at lightning speed.

Melendez was appointed Wilson’s Chief of Staff on August 8, 2008. This was almost four years after Wilson become the city’s city manager. In September of 2013, Leila Melendez was appointed the city’s Interim Deputy Director of Engineering & Construction Management Department. Joyce Wilson submitted her resignation letter as city manager about a month later. Melendez’s new position put her in charge of the city’s engineering department that is central to many current controversies at the city.

Before we take a look at some of the most controversial items, let me bring up the public scapegoat for the whole fiasco, you know person who has been blamed for the problems.

Irene D. Ramirez, who had served as the assistant city engineer was appointed interim city engineer in 2013. On March, of this year, Ramirez was appointed the city engineer. Ramirez abruptly retired in July.

It is not known to what extent Ramirez was involved in the fiasco as it is unlikely that she will speak out because as the city normally does to keep secrets, Ramirez is being allowed to “retire” at your expense.

As you know, the Engineering Department was singled out as responsible for the MPO money issues, the debacles of San Jacinto and Barron Park among other instances of dissatisfactions with the department.

On September 2014, Melendez left the city. However, before she left the city, she was overseeing the city’s department when three of the most recent controversies were executed by the city.

In November 2013, the Barron Park project was awarded to Spartan Construction. In January 2014, Basic IDIQ was awarded the San Jacinto project. I do not need to remind you of the problems with those two projects.

A few weeks ago there was some controversy, initiated by Claudia Ordaz’ quest to be put on the MPO, which revealed some more problems associated to the city’s engineering department. It is still unclear how much money, if any was lost at the MPO by the city, but it has been established that the city’s incompetence led to the controversy.

Some of the “lost” monies include projects that were “deprogrammed” in August of 2014. These include the Paso Del Norte Roundabout, the Five Point’s Quiet Zone and other projects because the city improperly submitted applications for funding. In May 2014, the city was unable to secure $24 million for the Zaragoza project because the city was unable to start the project.

On August 10, 2015, the El Paso, Inc. quoted Tommy Gonzalez as follows:

When I first got here there were five projects right before I got here that didn’t make it in the MPO process. There were another four projects that were submitted right when I got here that didn’t make here and I asked, why were these projects submitted if they weren’t ready? The environmentals weren’t done, the CMAQ analysis wasn’t done, just basic things. The right of way wasn’t acquired. Why would you submit it for review if those things weren’t done? That’s pretty simple stuff.” Tommy Gonzalez was appointed the city manager in June 2014.

The same El Paso, Inc. article quotes Cortney Niland as follows:

There’s a tremendous amount of restructuring that’s happening in that area, so much that Mr. Gonzalez felt it was necessary to recommend outsourcing the department.” She was referring to the city’s engineering department.

As of this month, the city’s engineering department has been essentially, gutted. Tommy Gonzalez has started to outsource many of its functions.

All of these instances of controversial projects happened at the time that Leila Melendez was overseeing the engineering department as the Interim Deputy Director of Engineering & Construction Management Department. Was Leila Melendez one of those “restructurings” that Niland alluded to?

The same month that Melendez left the city, she started working at Workforce Solutions Borderplex. Joyce Wilson is the CEO. As the Finance and Administrative Services Manager, Melendez is responsible for the finances, the contracts and the information technology of the Workforce.

As you can clearly see, first Joyce Wilson ensures that Melendez is employed by putting her in charge of the city’s engineering department shortly before Wilson announces her retirement. Once it became apparent that the department Melendez was overseeing was becoming embroiled in controversy, and possibly, after Wilson could create a position for her, Wilson reemployed Melendez at the Workforce Solutions Borderplex.

Clearly, the dots connect between the two, all at your expense. Workforce Solutions Borderplex is a non-profit that is supported by federal and state funds. In other words, your tax dollars are paying both Joyce Wilson and Leila Melendez’ salaries.

This is just one more example of how politics operates in El Paso, where your tax dollars are used to pay for employees that help each other along building fiefdoms of power for their employment futures, at your expense.

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...

4 replies on “Scratch My Back and I Will Scratch Yours”

  1. This is exactly why the mayor needs to reconsider his appointment of wilson to anything that is related with the city.

    There are too many unanswered questions about her. If he is serious about restoring trust he will disassociate council and himself from her. I would like to know what skeletons she knows about. If there’s none, then she’s one heck of an arm twister.

    While we’re at it, the whole council needs to reconsider their associations and endorsement of people that have credibility issues. What they do after they leave office is up to them. But, while in office, I strongly question their judgement in selection of friends. The same people are always found at the root of unethical or shady manipulations within their personal and public life’s. It is unbelievable !

    All that back scratching and the public is left infested with fleas with no relief in sight. Once again, I place the blame on the public. The public is fully aware of the problems but elect these so called officials year after year. By electing them, the message is that the bad decisions and shenigans are condoned. That’s all the encouragement they need.

    They’ve already been caught with lying about the city’s safest city title. Didn’t even make the top ten list, but it’s all good. What else are they lying about and how many lies before you wake up. Look the reason the former director of workforce was replaced so quickly is because there were shady practices and any inquiries were quashed. The only reason he was there so long is because he was under the protection of the former administration and there were eyes in place.

    It’s our fault for taking it year after year. You must like the fleas.

  2. And, the bottom line: More cost to the foolish taxpayers that have allowed themselves to be railroaded to this extent. Now you know why Joyce Wilson turned down that job in Florida. Why leave such a money tree as El Paso has turned out to be for her and her friends? We need this lady out of public employment.

  3. As I’ve stated on many occasions. It’s a merry-go-round with the same faces but always riding different horses. There are many who would like to see change in ELP but unfortunately the apathy of voters is extreme so the cycle continues. We have uninformed voters swarming the polls on Election Day in order to wear the ” I Voted” sticker on their clothing! We have those that are driven to the polls and told which boxes to mark. We have voters actually voting because the name sounds good (I witnessed a voter asking her child who she should vote for!– I was a poll watcher at the time). Then you have the life-long Democrats go in with their blinders and ear plugs to vote. It is amazing to watch people vote in ELP. Unfortunately the uninformed voters in ELP far outnumber those that actually pay attention, know the candidates, and want to see change. Thus the status quo of political deception, greed, and sell-importance continues.

  4. As City Manager, Joyce Wilson was working for the billionaires not the public. Even John Cook at one point called her a traitor. She is evil and should have faced charges.

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