El Paso city council is scheduled to move the oversight of Edmundo Calderon, the city’s Chief Internal Auditor, away from the city manager’s office on Wednesday according to the city council agenda for the meeting. Item 15 under the regular agenda asks city council members to approve the change. On May 6, El Paso voters approved proposition J moving the oversight of the city’s internal auditor away from the city manager’s office and putting the auditor under the control of the city council. Wednesday’s council action will fulfill the voters’ wishes. The item was put on the agenda by the mayor, Oscar Leeser.

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Calderon has been making headlines recently with his audit of the use of taxpayer-funded gasoline cards issued to city council members. Calderon’s audit of the use of gasoline cards led to a police investigation. According to the police report, video surveillance of individuals using the gasoline cards was collected. However, the police investigation determined that no crime was committed.

El Paso News filed an open records request asking for a copy of the video surveillance collected by the police department. Because the police department had closed its criminal investigation without pursuing criminal charges, the video surveillance should have been released to us. However, city officials have refused to release the videos citing an ongoing criminal investigation. City officials have also refused to name which law enforcement agency is investigating the gasoline card usage.

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On May 26, El Paso resident George Zavala filed an ethics complaint against Cassandra Hernandez alleging Hernandez “improperly” received “unwarranted privileges” using her city-issued gasoline card. A hearing over the ethics complaint is scheduled for July 19.

Calderon Criticized For Assumptions Made In Audits And Not Reporting Findings On Mayor

The agenda item has resulted in an email sent to city council members expressing “strong opposition” to the realignment of the internal auditor’s office. Although the letter mischaracterizes the agenda item as the “appointment of Edmundo Calderon as the newly created Internal Auditor,” it, nonetheless, points to previous criticisms of Calderon on how he conducts audits. The agenda item on Wednesday does not appoint Calderon, it simply moves his office under the city council.

According to an email submitted to city council members today by Ana, Calderon’s audit of the gasoline card usage by city council members is a “politically motivated sham audit.” Ana does not provide her last name, instead using “One,” as pseudonym. In an email exchange, Ana wrote that Ana is her name but says that she wishes to not provide her last name due to concerns over retaliation from city officials.

According to Ana, Calderon has failed to demonstrate independence in his audits.

Over the last week, Ana has been forwarding open records requests she has received from the city to us.

In her email to city council, Ana writes that Calderon has failed to disclose Oscar Leeser’s use of his city-provided gasoline card citing an instance when Leeser’s gasoline card was used twice “back-to-back during a single purchase.” According to Ana, the mayor’s fuel card was used on May 25 at 8:25am and again at 8:28 am. Ana writes that the mayor’s card was used again on November 9 while the “meeting recording shows” the mayor was attending the city council meeting. El Paso News has been unable to confirm these fuel charges independently but is working on confirming the charges and seeking a comment from the mayor’s office.

However, Ana provided us with copies of the open records requests she received from the city. One batch of open records includes performance evaluations for Edmundo Calderon going back to about 2004. We are reviewing the performance evaluations and will report on them when we complete our investigation.

Ana, however, referred to a performance evaluation of Calderon in 2007 in her email to city council opposing Calderon’s oversight movement scheduled for a vote on Wednesday.

Calderon was evaluated for the period of June 6, 2006 through June 6, 2007. He was rated four out of five in the performance evaluation on August 2, 2007. In the comments section of his performance evaluation, several comments were supportive of Calderon. However, three comments criticized Calderon’s audits.

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One critical comment states that “Edmundo tends to make assumptions based on a small sampling size in some instances.” The commentor goes on to write that if “an issue does arise,” Calderon should “expand his sample size to ensure his conclusions have a solid basis.” Another comment states that Calderon thrives under conflict or creating such.” This comment adds that Calderon is “not discreet at all and leads others to believe that there are serious problems” in an audit he is working on. The comment goes on to add that “during a portfolio’s meeting with the City Manager,” Calderon “tells the city Manager of his potential findings, which may or may not be entirely factual.” The comment goes on to criticize Calderon for not keeping confidentiality, closing with Calderon “appears to thrive on other’s discomfort.”

Another comment stated that Caldron’s “handling of certain situations has caused me to believe that he enjoys intimidating others with the fact that he is the Internal Auditor and he has the backing of the ‘Charter’.”

Calderon 2007 employee evaluation

The evaluation report is signed by two individuals. However, it is difficult to ascertain who they are by their signatures and whether they just collated the comments or are responsible for making some of them.

Page from Calderon’s 2007 employee evaluation.

Ana, who provided us the evaluation reports through an open records request, attributes the critical quotes to William F. Studer, who was the Deputy City Manager for El Paso from November 2004 through May 2014. El Paso News could not independently verify this. However, Studer signed the pay increase request for Calderon due to the employee evaluation.

According to Ana, the critical comments about Calderon “raise serious concerns about Calderon’s ability to maintain a neutral and unbiased stance.” Ana asks in her email for the city council to review the evaluation and “conduct a national search for a more qualified individual that does not ‘thrive on others discomfort.”

We asked Ana what her motivation was for asking city council to review Calderon before taking the vote on Wednesday and for sharing her open records results with us.

In an email, Ana confirmed that Ana is her name but that she does not “trust” city officials and their “petty politics.” She writes that she is fearful of “the revenge tactics” in city politics. Ana writes that she lives in the central/northeast section of El Paso. She added that she is not “working on behalf of anyone,” adding she is simply a “concerned citizen.”

El Paso News will be reviewing the packet of information Ana provided us from her open records requests and will report on them as necessary. Stay tuned for more updates as they become available.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...