We've got fingers pointing everywhere and at least two city reps now being scrutinized over an attempt to hire new bond advisers... Oh, there's also an appearance by Carlos Aguilar! This is getting fun!
Also, the Watergate style break-in of a city rep's office is being ignored by the media, but has gone several steps further internally at the city... it's actually the issue the electeds are all talking about.
Just want to quickly point that the contractor that underbid San Jacinto Plaza and still hasn't finished was buddies with people in engineering that allowed to:
1. get a contract that was seriously underbid and should have been tossed.
2. get tons of delays and change orders in order to make themselves whole on a project they seriously underbid.
Talk about "who you know" as way of getting by in El Paso... below you can relate this to that and that to this...
It's the bond adviser's fault!
If the former administrative heads of the City of El Paso truly believed the bond advisers were to blame for the $22 million dent; why didn't they fire them back then? I hear there are tons of emails from the bond advisers pleading with officials to "sell, sell, sell!" (Do you remember that line from 'Trading Places' staring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy?).
Of course, if you wanted those emails under open records... you can't get them. City staff could easily say "disclosure of sensitive financial advice on bonds could affect the long term value of them and thus further put our asses in the hole." I'm not sure Firth would write it exactly that way because she's not one to use the word "thus" in a sentence.
So, you probably can't get the evidence there, but you can ask the question why the former administration didn't fire the bond adviser back then.
It's the city council members at the time who are at fault!
The former city manager shot out an email saying she wasn't selling the bonds because various council members had asked her not to.
Wait... do you hear that rumbling noise? Listen... there it is - IT'S THE LARRY ROMERO STREET PAVING ATROCITIES ROARING BACK INTO THE CONVERSATION.
You see, if the city manager was acting on behalf of certain city council members without a vote directing to them do so - that's on the city manager. They don't have to do anything a single city council member asks them to do. If they do it - it's their fault. City council members, by nature, ask for shit they want in ways they shouldn't all the time. The best way to get things done in a democratic government is under the radar and without a vote.
Currently the idea is to blame Rep. Cortney Niland as the one who told the former city manager to hold off on selling the bonds. Why? Because the people pointing fingers around there don't like Cortney Niland and she was in the vicinity of the incident back in the day, so she might as well take the fall, right?
In order to make the case for Rep. Cortney Niland being the one who told the former city manager to hold off selling bonds, you have to build a motive. But, but, but, but - WE KNOW THE MOTIVE!
They wanted to make sure Rep. Steve Ortega was never on record as supporting the ballpark (and he wasn't he missed the votes to approve it - oddly enough). Ortega supporters were over-estimating the anti-ballpark crowd's strength and completely underestimating Oscar Leeser's name ID. I mean, Leeser has the most recognizable commercials in El Paso history - surpassing Dick Poe's "Hi Dick" schtick. The private poll I saw had the ballpark running at 68 percent positive among likely voters and Leeser's name ID was at 81 percent (Ortega clocked in at 23 percent). And let's not forget - Leeser never once said he'd stop the ballpark and he never did. So you're lying if think the anti-ballpark crowd was supporting a guy who supported their views. He most certainly did not .
(And just a sidebar, nobody has lost, or won, an election on the ballpark to this day. You simply had an extremely vocal minority who tried to co-opt larger groups with different interests as a way of getting their way. They lost...)
But did Niland support Ortega back then? They both were Forma candidates and we all know that all Forma candidates have to support each other, right? Wrong. The big deal at the time was the fact Niland stayed away from the Ortega camp and was quietly supporting the other guy. This was not lost on the Shapleigh Campers who until this day enjoy an icy cold relationship with Niland. Believe me, I have heard from both sides over the past years about how awful they think each other are.
You also must remember that Niland had thought of a mayoral run back then too, but was told to sit down, shut up and wait her turn by the money guys. She resented that greatly and thus resented Steve Ortega as well.
We know it wasn't Niland telling the city manager to hold off sale of the bonds.
Think back to who on council back then was good buddies with Steve Ortega? Ah, now that makes a lot more sense, right? Looks like the rep in that district seat has always had the power to get things done with the city manager.
"I know a guy"
The city goes out looking to replace their bond adviser and never really tells anyone why. It's like catching your husband on a dating site even though he has no complaints about you and no real reason to be auditioning new wives. It's like driving your brand new chevy truck over to the Ford dealership and asking to test drive comparable models. Why?
Here's where Romero gets pulled into the muck, but it doesn't appear to be like you think it is.
The way they want you to think it happened is that Romero hatched a scheme to get elected to office and then hand over all the bond business to his former business partner. Some kind of delayed quid pro quo would take place and nobody would be the wiser of it.
It's likely Romero ran for office, won and then got a call from a long lost pal reminding him of how good at bond advising they are. Maybe the guy tells Romero that they need to go to the waiver wire and see who's available to replace their current quarterback - you never know, you might like what you see? Maybe Romero takes the hint and proposes they go see what the world has to offer and he just happens to have this $22 million fumble he can point to as the reason.
Romero is just one vote. How does a guy looking to score some new business get a few more votes? Well, there's a guy named Carlos who knows how to get someone's attention - if you know what I mean. All of a sudden Rep. Emma Acosta is presented with a nice gift for her community by way of Carlos who lined up the guy Romero knows as the donor... or vice versa. Nothing illegal here. Just a good will gesture. A guy can buy a gal drink without her having to come home with her, right? There's nothing wrong with being nice.
And that's truly the situation here. Acosta has/had no ill intent. She accepted money that was for her community and spent in her community to make the community happy... in their community.
This game is played with every single contract the city has with vendors. It's not right, but you wouldn't believe how often these relationships with vendors to council members or city staff result in a sudden request for proposals (RFPs) on contracts being serviced just fine at the time.
Remember the ambulance billing contract a few years back? The eventual winner of the contract called up their buddy, the new fire chief in El Paso and told him that he needed to put a new request for proposal out for the ambulance billing contracts and they'd be happy to supply a sample RFP for him to use... which he did. The contract holder at the time was an ambulance billing company that was local and providing good service at a great price. They did not win the RFP process. In a shocking turn of events, the company who provided the sample RFP won the selection even though they promised to collect less ambulance bills and take a much bigger cut of each on collected. You gotta love El Paso....
You can't fire me, I have lawyers!
A lot of you want to know what stopped the city from firing one firm and hiring the other. I'm curious too, but I'm sure the firm that had the contract started to lay some facts out on the table and do their own research.
I think they threatened a scenario where they throw the real culprits under the bus and expose relationships that people might consider inappropriate (clothes on inappropriate as opposed to the more fun kind of inappropriate). It's a good thing they canceled the award to the new vendor and it didn't have to come to that.
It came to that! This is that! We're at that at this very moment!
HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHA!!!! What a way to win at every turn for First Southwest. You keep your contract, place blame for bad bond sales timing where it belongs, expose unfavorable city council members and poke your competitor right in the eye. Bravo, First Southwest, Bravo.
So, there you go. That's how sausage is made.