[Author’s note: The name of Michael Pleters was corrected on December 19, 2017 @ 09:31ET] Any talk of the 2016 election will likely touch on the Russians meddling in the election. Whether on the right or the left, most, if not all voters, would agree that the vote is sacrosanct to any election. Thus, any meddling of any election is undemocratic, and by my count, corrupt. The Russians meddled in the 2016 election, that much we know. Did the Trump Administration benefit from it? That is still up for debate. What is not up for debate is that Veronica Escobar meddled in El Paso’s District 2. Veronica Escobar orchestrated the removal of Larry Romero to put in a proxy for her in the district. That is corrupt.
In early 2016, Larry Romero resigned his seat citing health reasons. Prior to his resignation, Romero became embroiled in an ethics controversy. In April of 2016, Larry Romero admitted to the ethics violations and accepted a reprimand for his activities.
What precipitated the Romero controversy and his resignation was an ethics complaint filed by Jim Tolbert. Tolbert went on to run for Romero’s vacated seat and was elected on May 2016 to fill Romero’s vacated seat. In June of 2017, Tolbert lost to Alexsandra Annello.
What does all this have to do with Veronica Escobar?
For many years now, I have documented on this blog how Veronica Escobar and her cohort, Susie Byrd have orchestrated a takeover of the city’s public policy agenda. Under the tutelage of Ray Caballero, they have incubated and mentored political candidates to place into elected positions to further their public policy agenda. In addition, I believe that they have corruptly manipulated elections to place specific individuals that would vote their public policy agenda in several El Paso political offices.
They deny manipulating elections, arguing that they have been exercising their get the vote out initiatives to bolster their ideal public policy agenda, or “helping” candidates.
However, there is a fine line between pushing forth the ideal of “good governance” and a specific policy agenda and corruptly manipulating an elective office to gain control of another vote in an elected office.
What happened to Larry Romero was nothing short of corruptly removing an elected official just to place a person to vote the Veronica Escobar agenda.
Many of you are aware of the letter Jim Tolbert published in David Karlsruher’s and in the El Paso Speaks blogs, and referenced recently in the El Paso Times. I reached out to Jim Tolbert to confirm the authenticity of the letter and to ask for more details. Tolbert kindly confirmed the letter and added additional information.
In the letter, Jim Tolbert wrote that Susie Byrd wrote the ethics complaints that led to Larry Romero’s ouster. Tolbert also wrote that Byrd also wrote the ethics complaint against the city manager, Tommy Gonzalez.
Tolbert adds, “The [ethics] filings were a power play by one faction to tear down the current leadership of the City of El Paso.”
In the clearest way possible, Jim Tolbert is demonstrating how Veronica Escobar and her cohort, Susie Byrd, are a political “faction” hijacking the El Paso public policy agenda.
Romero resigned his seat and was issued a reprimand for ethics violations. There can be no debate on Romero’s actions and their consequences. However, the question is whether it was appropriate for Susie Byrd to orchestrate an ethics complaint to remove an elected official. More importantly, how about the removal of the city manager, or the El Paso Police Chief?
Byrd wrote the complaints. This much we know because she has publicly acknowledged doing so. Tolbert has said she orchestrated the ethics complaints and Byrd has said she was only helping Tolbert.
Who to believe?
“There were consequences to the Susie Byrd-Veronica Escobar cabal in which I took part,” wrote Tolbert in his letter.
What are these dangers?
Tolbert presumably posted a response on the El Paso Speak blog that partially answers this question. Tolbert posted, that Veronica Escobar and Susie Byrd “wanted me to get him [El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen] fired.” Remember the controversy over Allen’s comments about Black Lives Matter. Remember how Veronica Escobar publicly led an effort to have Greg Allen fired?
Tolbert added, “I would not support Veronica’s naked attempt to take over the MPO.”
On December 11, 2017, El Paso Times reporter, Elida S. Perez, posted a report titled, “Tolbert says he fell for ‘power play’ in his ethics complaints against Gonzalez, Romero”. In the article, Tolbert told the reporter that Susie Byrd “called and we talked about the ethics complaint” against Larry Romero. Tolbert tells the reporter that he agreed to file Byrd’s complaints.
Susie Byrd responded to the El Paso Times that “Tolbert’s account is inaccurate and recalls a different sequence of events.” Byrd told the reporter that “Tolbert knocked on my door and asked for help.” Byrd confirmed to the newspaper that she helped Tolbert write the complaints, but adds that she “did not initiate the process.”
Veronica Escobar, for her part, told the El Paso Times that she “had nothing to do” with the ethics complaints. Escobar added, “I have no idea why Jim Tolbert is pulling me into his conspiracy theory against Susie [Byrd].” Escobar believes that Tolbert’s disclosure now is “political and personal.”
So, the question remains, who to believe.
Jim Tolbert shared with me four Word documents. One of the documents, “City of El Paso Ethics Review Commission Complaint Form” is the complaint that Tolbert filed against Tommy Gonzalez. The meta data of the Word document shows that the document was authored by “Michael”. Michael Pleters, an attorney, is an immigration judge appointed by the Trump administration. He is married to Veronica Escobar. It is highly likely that the name “Michael” in the Word document refers to him. The same meta data shows that Susannah Byrd “last modified” the document. [The name of Michael Pleters was corrected on December 19, 2017]
Another Word document, this one titled “Ethics complaint attachment” was both authored and last modified by Susannah Byrd. Susannah Byrd is Susie Byrd.
Tolbert also shared another Word document wherein it appears that Tolbert cut-and-pasted an email exchange between himself, Susie Byrd and Veronica Escobar. Without access to the original emails to look at the meta data in them it is hard to authenticate the email string. However, the email string shows an email from Susie Byrd to both Jim Tolbert and Veronica Escobar where Byrd wrote, “I think Jim should send this letter to the Ethics Commission.” Escobar, presumably responded “Love it”.
Tolbert also forwarded me a copy of an email he sent to Zahira Torres of the El Paso Times. Tolbert also copied KFOX TV and KVIA in that email that he sent on Friday, December 15. The email includes the documents I have cited above. Tolbert wrote in his email to Torres, “I have attached an email string showing that Judge Escobar was very much involved in making a case against Mr. Gonzalez.”
Tolbert added in his email, “After the election I met with Escobar and a prominent El Paso businessman (not Woody and not Paul).” Tolbert continued, “The topic: how to get rid of Tommy Gonzalez.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
Although this latest revelation is not the “smoking gun,” coupled together with the other ample evidence of Susie Byrd and Veronica Escobar’s interference in other elections, their continued support of certain elected officials and their on again-off again incubating of politicos through tax money supported scams such as Community Scholars, adds to the already ample evidence of their continued attempts to hijack the democracy of El Paso’s voters.
In my book, there is only one word that defines this behavior – corrupt.