[This article was edited on December 3, 2015 at 08:37ET to correct typographical error in the amount of the loss] Thanks to KVIA’s reporting we now know that the city taxpayers have been saddled with a $22 million loss on the sales of the bonds to pay for the ballpark. Yes, I am aware that the El Paso Times has been reporting on the Larry Romero saga and although that and the $22 million loss are related, the Times has been focused on Larry Romero and not the $22 million loss. Today I am going to focus on the $22 million.
As you likely know, yesterday, city council released the Norton Rose Fulbright report into the sale of the bonds. The November 11, 2013 report was requested by Oscar Leeser. As is typical of the way the Joyce Wilson/John Cook administration operated, there is so much finger pointing and excuses that the fact that the taxpayers have lost $22 million is glossed over.
I’d like to take you through the smoke-and-mirrors right down to what we know today.
First let’s look at what the Norton Rose Fulbright report in relation to the delay of the bonds reported. Remember that at this time, this is the closest thing we have to an investigative report into the issue.
On March 8, 2013, the lawsuit that has been used as an excuse was settled in the city’s favor. March 28, 2013 was the date that the lawsuit could no longer be appealed and thus the city was free to sell the bonds. Although bond counsel requested April 23, 2013 as the date to sell the bonds, the city postponed it until April 30, 2013 to allow for regulatory processes to be completed.
At the last minute, the April 30, 2013 date was cancelled because Joyce Wilson abruptly removed the agenda items from the city council meeting agenda. Here is what the report had to say about this:
“Prior to posting of the agenda, the City Manager removed the items from the April 30 agenda because of concerns raised by certain City Council members.” [page 41]
The report is clear to point out that the city’s regulatory requirements were ready and thus there was no reason to delay the sale of the bonds. Here is what the report states:
“The agenda items, with all appropriate back-up, were submitted by the City’s Chief Financial Officer for the April 30, 2013 meeting and the appropriate notifications were published in the newspaper.” [page 41]
As you can clearly see, there was no appropriate reason to delay the sale of the bonds. So why were they delayed?
According to Joyce Wilson, it was because “several council members raised concerns about the timing” of the sale of the bonds. Wilson wrote this in an email dated August 26, 2013 specifically addressing concerns brought up during an August 1, 2013 executive session meeting about the sales of the bonds.
The question then becomes who are the “several council members?”
However, before we get to that, let me point you to how Joyce Wilson is desperately trying to keep you from knowing the facts.
On November 19, 2015, KVIA’s Maria Garcia quoted Joyce Wilson as stating that “she and the former city council did not purposely delay the issuance of the ballpark debt until after the Summer 2013 Mayoral election.” [emphasis mine]
Then on December 1, 2015, the El Paso Times quotes Joyce Wilson as stating; “The report and my memo (filed with the report) vindicate me and others who are being thrown under the bus to distract from other city problems.”
The first quote is an outright lie. Wilson already knew the sale was delayed due to concerns by “several council members.” She, herself, proves this through her email. The second is an attempt to distract you with the tired old, “don’t look at what I did because the others are doing worse things.”
Unfortunately, that still leaves us with trying to identify the “several council members.”
At the time of the sale of the bonds and delays thereof, the following city officials were the ones with the authority to make the decisions that resulted in the monetary loss to the taxpayers.
They were, John Cook, Ann Morgan Lilly, Susie Byrd, Emma Acosta, Carl Robinson, Michiel Noe, Eddie Holguin, Steve Ortega and Cortney Niland. Additionally, although Joyce Wilson was supposed to operate under the direction of the majority of the city council, the information we currently have seems to suggest that she may have made decisions on behalf of certain city council members.
From the onset, we can remove Eddie Holguin and Carl Robinson from the list because they consistently voted against the ballpark measures. It is unlikely that either would have wanted to delay the sale of the bonds or even had the opportunity to do so.
That leaves us John Cook, Ann Morgan Lilly, Susie Byrd, Emma Acosta, Michiel Noe, Steve Ortega, Cortney Niland and Joyce Wilson. Let’s look at each of them closer.
We already know about Joyce Wilson’s part in this fiasco. She has acknowledged that “several council members” were concerned and the report has documented that she was the one that removed the agenda item.
Maria Garcia also quoted John Cook as stating that he “can absolutely say” he “never did give that directive” to delay the sale of the bond on November 24, 2015. This contradicts Joyce Wilson who has stated that she notified the mayor and the mayor pro tempore.
That leaves us with Emma Acosta, Susie Byrd, Ann Morgan Lilly, Michiel Noe, Steve Ortega and Cortney Niland. Steve Ortega has denied knowing anything about this. Ann Morgan Lilly has stated that she knows nothing about bonds and therefore it is unlikely that she would have been told what was happening. Everyone else, Emma Acosta, Susie Byrd, Michiel Noe and Cortney Niland have been silent about the issue.
Unfortunately, although we can speculate, we cannot conclusively know who the “several city representatives” are because no one is willing to be honest. Others are not talking.
As you digest this, take a look at my image and draw your own conclusions as to who the “several council members” may be.