Today, El Paso city council exercised its right to terminate El Paso’s second city manager, Tommy Gonzalez. The council voted to end the employment contract under the convenience clause that allows the city to end the contract with 120-day notice to Gonzalez. Gonzalez was appointed the city manager in 2014.
As we reported previously, Tommy Gonzalez’ employment with the city was up for discussion today at the council meeting. There was speculation that Gonzalez would be fired today.
About four hours into the meeting, the item on Gonzalez was put before the city council. Kennedy made a motion that the city exercise its option to terminate Gonzalez’ employment contract by authorizing the mayor to provide Tommy Gonzalez with the 120-day notification of his contract termination as required by Gonzalez’ current contract.
City representative Cassandra Hernandez tried multiple times to combine the Gonzalez contract with a second executive session involving a “complaint against an elected official.” Although the agenda did not identify who the elected official is, sources told El Paso News that the elected official is Joe Molinar. According to our reporting, Molinar has been accused of harassment for an incident during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Although the two items appear independent of each other and Oscar Leeser stated that several times, for an unknown reason, Hernandez insisted on combining both. Hernandez argued that without allowing her to hear from the attorneys in the other matter she was being forced to make an “important” decision without important consultation from the attorneys. Hernandez added that “all this feels orchestrated.”
In two tie votes, Hernandez’ attempt to combine both items failed with Leeser breaking the tie vote both times. Hernandez also tried to bring the item about the “elected official” forward but she was unable to get the necessary votes. After some discussion, the city council went into executive session to discuss Gonzalez’ contract.
Motion to go to into executive session was made by Henry Rivera and seconded by Cassandra Hernandez. The motion passed with Canales, Hernandez, Kennedy, Rivera and Salcido voting to go into executive session to discuss Gonzalez’ contract.
A little over an hour after going into executive session, city representatives then make statements about the issue.
Isabel Salcido said that “her questions about process and procedures” because she was concerned about the “million dollars” payout.
Henry Rivera stated that city representatives should “be careful about our decision.”
Cassandra Hernandez stated that there was “certainly the unknown,” about the item, adding that a “contract is a contract, that Mr. Gonzalez agreed to.”
Chris Canales stated that the city manager received “consistently high evaluations by previous city councils,” and that Gonzalez implements the policy of city council. Canales emphasized the important issue for him was about “process and fairness.”
Isabel Salcido closed the discussion by asking Kennedy and Molinar to explain what drove them to place the item on the agenda that will cost the city’s taxpayers about $900,000.
At 2:53 pm., city council voted to terminate Gonzalez. The motion was made by Kennedy and seconded by Molinar. Voting in favor were Annello, Fierro, Kennedy, and Molinar. Oscar Leeser broke the tie vote voting to fire Gonzalez. Voting against firing Gonzalez were Canales, Hernandez, Rivera and Salcido.