I had to wait for a certain El Paso homebuilder's personal blogger to hang himself before I could write this. I didn't want to be the first blogger to jump out there and be the one that gets named in a lawsuit that is very likely to be filed. And because I'm not sure how far this is going to go - I'm not going to use the city employee's name. Even going through depositions is annoying.
I wanted to write "a couple of years ago a city employee told me..." but my time line would be off. The employee I'm thinking of told me what I'm about to relate to you back in 2010 before he left employment on the 10th floor of the old city hall.
He told me that the way politics were going at the city gave him the impression that rank and file employees would be thrown to the public wolves by council members. At the time not many on council had any idea of how employment law works and what an employees enjoyed as "rights." Things took a while to prove him right. You might remember when former city manager, Joyce Wilson, was to have her annual review performed during a council meeting in front of the public. We know that this is explicitly against the rules because the city attorney, Sylvia Firth, stated that it was when council decided to do her review during a meeting (too bad Firth didn't step in with the same advice when Wilson was in that situation).
Now, working for the city does open you up to some scrutiny by the public where people working in the private sector are covered. We all know that your salary and few other details are public record. That's a little uncomfortable for some, but it's no secret. Your emails and other work correspondence are up for grabs as well. Again, you are made aware of this from day one.
What is not for public consumption are a lot of the details you work out through HR when a problem arises. Employees have the "right" to have their reviews done in private and interactions with HR on non-public facing problems kept secret. In this case we see an internal document detailing some work conditions that wasn't supposed to be seen by the general public.
The idea that someone is being paid to not work is hard to swallow. However, we don't know exactly what went on here. Obviously there were no grounds to fire this woman, otherwise she would have been fired. Something else is at play here and we may never know what happened (think Emma Acosta's deal). The time-line suggests this got underway during the last city manager's tenure, but must have been run by the mayor and the city attorney. If you are looking to blame someone - blame the chain of command.
Where this employee hit the jackpot is the disclosure to the media of the details of her dust up with HR. The El Paso Times simply mentioned the document and did not post it. They realized they weren't supposed to have it and weren't going to expose themselves to a lawsuit by displaying it. El Dario was careful to say that they obtained the document and then didn't post it. Martin Paredes - who is fed by the same council members as El Dario wasn't careful. He posted a document that nobody else wanted to post for legal reasons. How does he have it? Why is he so dumb?
What you have here is either someone in the city screwing up and providing the document in response to an open records request, or a city council member leaked it to the media.
I'm hoping Firth's office would have not let that go out under an open records request. They would red flag any HR or disciplinary document automatically and spend some time thinking about it. I know this because I've requested such documents and ran into a wall (as I should have... sometimes you've got to try and trick them!).
I'm leaning toward a council member leaking the document. A few meetings back Rep. Limon was blabbing about a situation with an employee that sounds a lot like this employee's deal. She had details that only someone in possession of that document would have. It's interesting in that Limon and Holguin have fed Paredes and Karla at El Dario inside info in the past. One doesn't have to do much detective work to see where Paredes likely got the document... the one he posted, like an idiot.
My sources tell me that the city is in panic mode and that the mayor is furious. It doesn't take a lawyer to understand the kind of trouble they are in now. The deal with the employee will stand. What is now at stake is the damages she is going to want after being forced out for what appears to be no reason and then having it played out in the media to ruin her reputation. This is the stuff of HR nightmares!
What's worse is that Paredes and friends are trying to spin this into some kind of political deal when it's not. There is no indication that this employee is anything other than an employee. She's not tied to a faction on council. She's not a regular at political events. None of her emails were questioned with the ballpark deal. It appears Paredes and friends are swinging blindly right now and are likely going to land punches on the faces of their allies - Firth, Leeser and Limon. They are going to turn a six figure annoyance into a seven figure pain in the taxpayer ass and it's all because they want to play politics with a departed city council member (Ortega) and a long gone city manager (Wilson). It's just stupid... but what did you expect from that crew?