Advertisements

Over the last few weeks several news media outlets have been following up on allegations of impropriety in Henry Rivera’s office involving his wife, Dora Oaxaca and former staffer, Israel Williams. Several allegations have been levied over the last few weeks and at least one formal complaint has been filed, several sources confirmed to El Paso News. Because the allegations involve personnel issues, access to records has been limited by officials.

In next week’s city council agenda, an item has been listed for executive session. The item number EX1 in Executive Session is likely the item where the city’s Human Resources Department will make a presentation to city council members outlining their findings into the activities involving city representative Henry Rivera and his wife, Dora Oaxaca. The investigation into Rivera was launched after Israel Williams filed a complaint against Rivera.

El Paso News spoke to several independent individuals about the allegations, some with first-hand knowledge and others with second-hand information. The individuals agreed to speak to us on the condition that we not name them because of the seriousness of the allegations that have been made. Although several allegations have been made, including a possible attempted suicide, which we have been unable to confirm, we have pieced together the following from independent sources who independently confirmed to us what the issues are.

According to our sources, Israel Williams was working in Henry Rivera’s office when he allegedly complained about the influence Rivera’s wife, Dora Oaxaca, had over the operations of Rivera’s office. Several sources told us that it is well known that “Dora runs the office.” According to three sources, Oaxaca “does everything” for Rivera, including accessing confidential information in Rivera’s office that is not supposed to be accessed by the public. It is an “open secret” that Oaxaca is the individual that produces the work products coming out of the District 7 office.

According to several sources, Dora Oaxaca sent emails as if it were Henry Rivera sending them issuing directives or asking for information. In some instances, Oaxaca allegedly sent emails to legal staff asking for confidential information as if Rivera was the one asking for the information.

Although none of the individuals we spoke to have any knowledge of a criminal investigation, depending on the findings of the human resources investigators, criminal charges may be sought. Under Texas law, the unauthorized access of a computer or its contents is illegal. If the HR report finds that Oaxaca was accessing confidential files on the city’s computer, even if Rivera had provided his password to her, her access, if any, would be illegal in that the password and the computer files belong to the city and not to Rivera or his wife. This would be in addition to misrepresenting her requests verbally or via email to city officials, as has allegedly happened.

Since around February, Henry Rivera’s office at city hall has been “dark and empty,” a source told us. Rivera has been working out of his eastside office for most of the year, several sources confirmed for us. Rivera’s office at city hall is “virtually shuttered” our source told us. In addition to staff, Dora Oaxaca and Emma Acosta were frequently at Rivera’s eastside office. Since an investigation was launched into the activities of Rivera’s office, Acosta has been largely absent from the office.

However, the issue that the city council will allegedly consider in Executive Session involves Oaxaca allegedly having access to confidential documents like Executive Session materials that are only available to members of the city council and limited to city staff. Several sources told us that Oaxaca has the computer passwords that allow her access confidential information in Rivera’s office computer. Although one source told us that Oaxaca’s access to Executive Session may lead to criminal charges, El Paso News found no evidence of a criminal investigation and no other source would confirm this.

Sources told us that Oaxaca, Rivera and others were questioned by the human resources investigators. Both refused to answer the investigators’ questions, according to sources.

One source told us that they have heard that the HR report into Rivera will be “brutal” in its assessment of what the investigators found.

Central to the alleged controversy is Israel Williams who was working in Henry Rivera’s office when he suddenly left. Israel Williams is the brother of Casey A. Williams, who is the chairmen of the Ethics Review Commission. The Commission recently reprimanded Cassandra Hernandez over her use of the city-issued gasoline cards. Jeremy Jordan, Hernandez’ husband who was named in the ethics commission hearing filed a complaint (Paywall) against Casey Williams with the New Mexico State Bar alleging violations of the rules of conduct for attorneys. The bar dismissed Jordan’s complaint and earlier this month, Jordan appealed the dismissal. Attempts to reach Jordan for comment about his bar complaint were unsuccessful.

Another related member of the Williams family is Isela Castañon-Williams who is the mother of both Casey and Israel. Castañon-Williams currently serves on the city’s Open Space Advisory Board. In 2021, Henry Rivera appointed Castañon-Williams to the Committee on Border Relations. Her appointment to the Border Relations committee ended on May 31.

In 2012, former El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) superintendent Lorenzo Garcia pleaded guilty to federal charges of illegally gaming the test scores of students at EPISD. The EPISD board president, Isela Castañon-Williams, refused to resign after the scandal began and was eventually removed by state officials who took over control of EPISD.

The other individual involved in the allegations is Dora Oaxaca. Oaxaca, who is married to Henry Rivera, recently filed an ethics complaint in February against Brian Kennedy alleging Kennedy’s previous consulting work at the El Paso Sports Commission. The Ethics Commission chairman, Casey Williams, who is Israel Williams brother, initially refused to recuse himself from the Kennedy hearing. However, after prompting from Ethics Commissioner, Mark Walker, Casey Williams relented and eventually left the proceedings. The Ethics Commission ruled in favor of Kennedy five to one, with Walker being the only member to vote against Kennedy.

We need your support to keep delivering the news and information that is important to you. We are seeking to raise $5,000 to cover our costs through the end of the year. We would not be asking if we did not need your support.

In 2020, Dora Oaxaca was accused by Iris Leppard, a poll sitter, at the Carolina Center of accosting her. According to Leppard, Oaxaca took pictures of Leppard at the polls. The pictures later appeared on a now-defunct blog frequently used to target political opponents.

Oaxaca was also criticized by El Paso Democratic Party members for her attendance at a 2017 annual Republican Lincoln Day event while members of the Democratic Party were outside protesting Republican Greg Abbott.

In a 2020 interview with Aaron Montes, who was challenging Rivera for his city council seat, Montes told us he was covering the event as a journalist and what he heard was “very harmful” to El Paso.

All the sources we talked to told us that the underlyning issue is that Dora Oaxaca is acting as the District 7 city representative. One characterized it as Oaxaca is “the un-elected” representative for the district.

Our calls and text messages to Israel Williams went unanswered. We also asked Henry Rivera for a comment. As of press time, he has not responded to our request for comment. Should he respond at a later time, we will update this report.

Author’s note: In preparing this report, El Paso News spoke to about a dozen individuals with knowledge of the events described in this report. All independently confirmed what we have outlined in this exclusive report. Several agreed to speak to us on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the matter publicly.

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...