El Paso News Exclusive – George Zavala was notified today in a letter that a hearing has been scheduled before the El Paso Ethics Review Commission to hear the complaint filed by Zavala against city representative Cassandra Hernandez. As we reported on May 26, Zavala filed a complaint alleging “improperly” receiving “unwarranted privileges” as an office holder using her city-issued gasoline card.
The city auditor has reported to the city council that Hernandez has spent almost $7,000 in taxpayer-funded gasoline. Hernandez has denied the allegations and paid back the $7,000 to the city. The auditor’s report led to a police investigation. The police investigation found no criminal act by Hernandez, however it identified her husband as an individual using her city-issued gasoline card.
Although the police collected video evidence, the City has declined to release the video to us under the Texas Public Information Act. Although city officials have cited an ongoing criminal investigation by an unknown law enforcement agency for not releasing the video evidence, they nonetheless asked the Office of the Texas Attorney General for permission to withhold the video evidence from us on June 8.
We have not heard back from the Texas Attorney General.
The Commission will hold the hearing at city hall in the Main Room. Should the hearing not conclude on that day, a follow up hearing date is tentatively scheduled for the following day, also at 5:30.
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The City previously contracted the law firm of Davidson, Troilo, Ream & Garza to determine if ethics complaints filed by the public meet the statutory requirements for an ethics hearing. On June 8, the outside attorneys determined that the “allegations made” by Zavala “describe a matter that is within the jurisdiction of the Ethics Review Commission.” As such, Zavala’s complaint against Hernandez was forwarded to the Commission for a hearing.
Hernandez originally had 14 days to respond to the allegations made by Zavala. However, according to the letter, Hernandez’s attorney asked for a seven-day extension. The Commission chair agreed to the seven-day extension. Hernandez is now expected to provide a written response to the Commission by June 29.
As this is a developing story, El Paso News will continue to monitor it and report the latest news as it becomes available.