A frequent reader recently pointed me to a county employee that works for Vince Perez that may be in violation of County policies on outside work. According to the May 21, 2018 El Paso County employee manual on conflicts of interest, county employees may not operate businesses and sell to the county their services while also employed by the county. That is the obvious conflict of interest.
Every election cycle, there are complaints of city or county employees working for their bosses on their bosses’ campaigns. Unseemly is the most often expressed concern as it seems like the government employee is receiving a taxpayer paycheck while working to ensure their boss is reelected.
The problem with dealing with this problem is the difficulty in proving violations of laws and/or policies. Many times, the employee is an “exempt” employee which means the employee does not clock-in or out documenting their work times. Voters must just accept that the employee is working on their own time, even if their own time is during normal working hours. The problem lies in that the community must accept that the government employee is honestly tracking and separating political work from government work and that the employee is providing honest labor for their tax-supported paycheck.
Without a “smoking gun” it is near impossible to identify violations.
The County of El Paso has attempted to address possible violations. The obvious ones, like working for a company selling to the County while drawing a taxpayer paycheck are easier to identify and expose. Working on a political campaign in “off” hours is much more difficult to prove.
The County has a “conflict of interest” (May 21, 2018) provision in its employee manual. It states that the county “requires all employees to avoid any conflict between their interests and those of the County.” [emphasis in original]
One section is nebulous when it comes to campaign work.
It says, “employees shall not benefit personally by virtue of their employment.”
It can be argued that an employee of an elected official benefits from ensuring that their boss is reelected. An employee’s paycheck depends on their boss keeping their job.
The County also has a section on “holding second jobs or operating businesses”. This policy is dated August 8, 2000. It states that the “County Commissioners’ Court, in adopting this policy, does not intend to limit the opportunity of employees to earn outside income so long as this pursuit does not adversely affect the employees’ job performance no[r] constitute conflict of interest or appearance thereof.”
The reader should note the “constitute conflict of interest or appearance thereof”.
The policy goes on to add, “any and all work for pay or other tangible compensation, including work for political campaigns and non-profit organizations, except for income less than $100 during a six month period” is included in the prohibition.
This brings us to Joaquin Rodriguez, the Senior Policy Advisor for Vince Perez. I sent Rodriguez an email at his county email address this morning asking him about his work for Vince Perez and, as of, the publication time the El Paso News did not hear back from him. Should we receive a reply from Rodriguez, we will update this post.
According to the campaign financial report filed by Vince Perez on January 15, 2020, there are two payments made to Joaquin Rodriguez.
The first payment was on October 15, 2019 in the amount of $1,950. It is labelled “Consulting Expense” with a description of “Video and Data Consulting”.
The second payment was on November 19, 2019 in the amount of $800. It is labeled as “advertising expense” with a description of “Video Production”.
It is unclear what services Rodriguez performed for the $2,800 that Vince Perez paid him from campaign funds. Video, data consulting and video production can encompass many services. The El Paso News requested clarification from Rodriguez, but we did not hear back from him prior to publication.
However, it is clear that Joaquin Rodriguez was paid $2,800 from the Vince Perez campaign funds. Rodriguez’ job is dependent on Perez being reelected. Rodriguez draws a paycheck from taxpayer funds.
At the very least, there appears to be a conflict of interest.
Does it violate County policy? That is unknown until a formal complaint is filed.