It is likely that many of you, if not all of you reading this today, knows that the El Paso Independent School District Board voted yesterday to initiate an audit of Susie Byrd’s political activities. Byrd, and her cohort, Veronica Escobar have taken a page out of Donald Trump’s many scandals and have labelled the corruption concerns as fake news. Unfortunately for both Susie Byrd and Veronica Escobar, their ample history gives voters a reason to be concerned.
As you likely know, Susie Byrd and Veronica Escobar have a long record working together in politics. Their political history goes back to Ray Caballero, when both worked for Caballero starting in 2001. The school district was mired in political and corruption scandals starting in 2011 with a few cases closing out the corruption scandal as late as last year.
It started with the arrest, and subsequent incarceration of Lorenzo Garcia, the then-superintendent. Garcia pleaded guilty to public corruption charges. By the time the dust had settled, almost 20 EPISD officials were implicated in the cheating scandal that was exposed upon Garcia’s arrest. In 2012, the Texas Commissioner of Education removed the entire EPISD board and appointed a Board of Managers.
Although Garcia’s arrest stemmed from a no-bid $450,000 contract to his mistress, it expanded into a fraud case of widespread accountability testing cheating at the school district. To say that the community had lost trust in the school district is an understatement.
In 2015, the state-appointed board was replaced with a local board elected by El Paso voters. Their task was to rebuild trust in the school district. Dori Fenenbock was elected and was appointed the board president. Fenenbock is now running for the Congressional seat being vacated by Beto O’Rourke. Veronica Escobar is also running for O’Rourke’s seat. Susie Byrd was also elected to the reconstituted EPISD board.
Byrd and Escobar were instrumental in helping Ray Caballero impose an 11.8% tax increase on El Paso homeowners in 2001. Paul Strelzin, notwithstanding that Strelzin was in arrears on his own property taxes at the time, advocated for the tax increase via his radio program. Some of you may remember that in 2003, Paul Strelzin sent a letter to EPISD vendors demanding campaign contributions to get-out-the-vote for the 2003 EPISD bond election. Strelzin had received a list of all EPISD vendors, including how much each was paid by EPISD, and sent them a letter asking for money for the bond election. The letter, which included the amount of money the vendor was paid, can only be characterized as an extortion letter – give us money or see your EPISD contract disappear.
Notice the resemblance between the Strelzin letter and the allegations against Susie Byrd?
It’s not as if Susie Byrd and Veronica Escobar haven’t played the gaming the voters game before. Consider that both worked to build incubators for future El Paso leaders. Think Community Scholars. The way the scam worked – funded by taxpayer monies – was to give a token job to someone that could be placed to run for office at a future date. It basically kept a paycheck, from tax monies, flowing to someone until they could be put into office. Both Vince Perez and Jose Landeros are alumni of this scam. Veronica Escobar, herself, used a paycheck from Community Scholars to keep her financially afloat, after she lost her job at the city because of Caballero’s ouster from office. As soon as the opportunity to run for office materialized, Escobar jumped off Community Scholars right into a taxpayer-funded office at the County.
You’ll remember that in midst of bankruptcy, the El Paso Children’s had money to pay Susie Byrd an untold amount of money to provide “communications” consulting services. We don’t know how much Susie Byrd was paid because, although tax funded, the El Paso Children’s Hospital was a “private” entity, immune from public information requests.
But you see, how it works, Susie Byrd needs money, so she finds a taxpayer-funded job providing “consulting” services. Ask yourself, when was the last time Susie Byrd held a private sector job that did not include taxpayer funds to pay her? You should ask the same questions about Veronica Escobar.
As a matter of fact, it is a family affair for the Escobars, both get paid by taxpayer monies. Veronica Escobar pretends to care about immigrants, while she jailed them, while her husband is paid to deport them.
Now, Susie Byrd is being paid by Veronica Escobar for her campaign “expertise.”
Last night, the El Paso Independent School District voted 4-2 to have an audit conducted on one of their own; Susie Byrd.
As much as Byrd and cohorts pretend that it is political, ala Donald Trump, the fact remains that the first board, after the public corruption scandal at EPISD removed the last board, voted 4-2 to investigate a fellow board member.
There is no doubt that there exists animosity between Byrd and Juan Cabrera, the EPISD superintendent, but it was not Cabrera who voted for the audit of Byrd’s activities.
Tied together with Strelzin’s previous misuse of the EPISD vendor data, Byrd and Escobar’s continued political shenanigans and the culture of corruption that EPISD cannot seem to shake, Byrd’s activities must be questioned. More importantly, the idea that Susie Byrd will interfere with an elected office has been conclusively demonstrated by Jim Tolbert.
You’ll note that Jim Tolbert has told anyone that will listen that Byrd orchestrated Tolbert’s election by organizing an ethics complaint against Larry Romero to make room for Tolbert. When Tolbert refused to follow the directives issued to him by Veronica Escobar and Susie Byrd, Tolbert was unceremoniously dropped by both Byrd and Escobar.
In other words, when Tolbert wasn’t playing ball, Veronica Escobar and Susie Byrd made sure he was out office so that they could put someone else in. At best, that is the very definition of political corruption.
But the most important question voters should be asking themselves today, can you really trust Veronica Escobar to represent them, ethically and effectively, or is the congressional seat just another paycheck for Escobar, and her friend, Susie Byrd?
Can the voters of El Paso really afford not to wonder?