Friday, August 28, 2009

Ethics Commission Meeting

Our County Commissioner, Veronica Escobar, recently wrote about a very important meeting on September 1. City Council Representative Susie Byrd urges: " Please participate by attending or emailing your Commissioner with your thoughts."

Dear Friends,

I wanted to make sure you are aware of a very important community issue that the Court will discuss and take action on: implementation of the Ethics legislation. Please read this email, let us know what you think, and attend the special meeting if you can.

A Quick History

For the past year, the effort to create an ethics commission at the County has been underway. The idea started with our Board of Ethics; eventually, they brought forward language for legislation that came to Commissioners Court for approval (and was passed unanimously a total four times); the legislative request went through the legislature (with great work by our sponsors, Representative Marisa Marquez and co-sponsor Representative Chente Quintanilla, Senator Eliot Shapleigh and ultimately gained support of every member of our delegation including Reps. Joe Pickett, Norma Chavez and Joe Moody); finally, a bill authorizing us to create an ethics commission was signed by the Governor on June 19, 2009.

Quick Highlights

The bill that is now in the hands of the County allows us to create an Ethics Commission that will be able to apply consequences to those who violate our ethics code (our code already exists). Here's what the bill would allow us to do:

  • El Paso County would be the first county in Texas to create an ethics commission that could assess civil penalties (fines of up to $4,000 for violations, fines of up to $500 for County public servants); criminal complaints would go to law enforcement;
  • County officials, County employees and agents, lobbyists and vendors who do business with the County would be covered under this legislation;
  • Numerous safeguards would protect whistleblowers AND the accused;
  • The cost for the county remains low by created a rotating three person committee to review and weed out frivolous complaints, and repeated frivolous complaints would bring consequences to complaining party;
  • This commission cannot interfere with an employee’s collective bargaining or civil service agreement.
The final version of the ethics bill is available for your review.

Share Your Opinions With Us!

Now that the legislation is in our hands, we have three options: (1) we can take no action; (2) we can adopt it by commissioners court vote; or (3) we ask the voters to decide whether we implement it in a November election.

In order to discuss and take action on these three options, the commissioners court will hold a special meeting. Between now and then, please let us hear from you! Do you have questions or concerns? Let me know, and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have. Do you favor an election or a vote of the court? Do you think we should do nothing?

My own personal opinion is that we need to implement this legislation immediately. However, there are benefits to an election. If the Court adopts the legislation, it can be undone by a subsequent court. If the voters decide and vote to have the County adopt the legislation, then only the voters can undo it.

This is a critical issue in our community. The state of Texas (its elected officials and its employees) have to follow state rules and answer to the state ethics commission; the City of El Paso (its elected officials and its employees) have to follow their rules and answer to their ethics commission; the County should also.

I look forward to hearing from you, and if you can attend our meeting, please do!



Implementation of Ethics Commission Legislation

DATE: Tuesday, September 1, 2009

TIME: 9:00 a.m.

PLACE: County Courthouse, Commissioner Courtroom, Suite 303 500 E. San Antonio, El Paso, TX 79901


County Judge Anthony Cobos Phone (915) 546-2098 Fax (915) 543-3888

Commissioner Anna Perez, Pct. 1 Phone (915) 546-2014 Fax (915) 543-3885

Commissioner Veronica Escobar, Pct. 2 Phone (915) 546-2111 Fax (915) 543-3817

Commissioner Willie Gandara Jr., Pct. 3 Phone (915) 546-2144 Fax (915) 543-3809

Commissioner Dan Haggerty, Pct. 4 Phone (915) 546-2044 Fax (915) 543-3854

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