This article was updated on November 9, 2023 at 7:20am Eastern Time to report on the findings of the Ethics Commission last night.
The City’s Ethics Review Commission will be holding a hearing on an ethics complaint filed against Claudia Rodriguez by El Paso resident Philip Laign for her use of the city-issued gasoline card. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 5:30 today. However, Rodriguez will not be attending.
In a press release issued by Claudia Rodriguez shortly after 5:00pm, she notified the news media that she will not participate in the hearing today.
In her press release, Rodriguez wrote:
“After long consideration, I do NOT trust the process and I will not participate in this charade of “fairness.” If Mr. Tom Laign, Max Grossman, Art Fierro, Edmundo Calderon, and the City of El Paso really think they have a valid case against me, then I invite them to bring their claims to our district courts. After all, discovery is a BEAUTIFUL thing. This was NEVER about gas usage this was about destroying my reputation. Go ahead and issue your reprimand, I am not impressed.”
UPDATE: November 9, 2023
Yesterday’s Ethics Commission hearing started at 5:33 in the evening and lasted about two hours.
Commissioner Arnulfo Hernandez, Jr., recused himself from the hearing citing that he had supported and made a campaign donation to Claudia Rodriguez when was running to fill the vacancy left by Claudia Ordaz, after Ordaz resigned her city council seat to run for state representative. Hernadez stated at the hearing that he later filed five ethics complaints against Rodriguez with the Texas Ethics Commission for campaign violations. Because of this, Hernandez recused himself from the hearing.
As we originally reported, Rodriguez did not attend the hearing. Although Rodriguez is no longer in office, the City’s ethics ordinance allows for the filing of an ethics complaint against a former city representative provided the alleged incident happened within two years of the filing. In this case, the use of the fuel card occurred within two years. El Paso resident Philip Laign filed the complaint on August 28, 2023.
Because Rodriguez is no longer in office, the City’s Ethics Review Commission has three penalties it can issue. They are, in order of severeness, issue a Letter of Notification, issue a Letter of Admonition, or issue a Letter of Reprimand.
Laign spent a little less than an hour making his presentation to the commissioners and answering the Commissioners’ questions. After listening to Laign’s presentation, the Commission retired into Executive Session to reach a decision. Almost an hour later, the Commissioners returned from Executive Session.
The Commission unanimously found two violations. The first was that Rodriguez used her position for private benefit and the second was utilizing city resources by using her fuel card. The motion was made by Commissioner Mark-Thomas Bray. It was seconded by Commissioner Yetter.
The Ethics Commission unanimously issued a Letter of Reprimand against Claudia Rodriguez for the two violations.
This is the second Letter of Reprimand the Ethics Commission has issued related to the fuel card controversy. In July, the Commission issued a Letter of Reprimand against Cassandra Hernandez in an ethics complaint filed by George Zavala.