I think I had mentioned recently that I was thinking of writing about how El Paso politics has become a little boring given all the blogs willing to blow up anybody who missteps even in the slightest. I was starting to think that the local electeds had figured out that they are being watched and were inclined to act at least ethically if not so blatantly idiotically. Obviously I was wrong.
You've seen the articles on the meetings about the location of the arena nobody needs. I won't quibble with what you all know because it seems to me there's rather good evidence of what exactly was taking place. What I will do is explain a few things to you that haven't been properly explained by the usual suspects.
Let's start with this whole idea of how city council members get around the quorum laws in order to engineer their next moves. A lot of these city councils around Texas know how to bend the rules in order to meet without the public's prying eyes. They know just how to swap people in and out of these meetings so that everyone knows what's going on, but a quorum is never technically had. Back in the day a staffer would be sent out to go retrieve members as other members left the meeting. Is it legal? Yes. Is it following the spirit of the law? No. This a case where what looks bad technically isn't bad... at least isn't at the level of breaking the law. After all, a quorum must be had to break the law. That's what I think the investigators are going to focus on.
I also think that the investigators are going to examine which issue was discussed and how that issue affects the public. Voting not to do something is a lot different than voting to do something. I'll explain.
Investigators are going to want to know who benefits from an illegal quorum. Did this quorum vote to give themselves, or some other group, a gift of some value? A raise? A favorable rezone for a big donor? Lifetime terms for sitting members? The list could go on forever, but you get the gist. I think what the investigators will find here will not be scandalous, but a lot more humorous. These guys bent the rules to decide not to do anything. It's like having a planning meeting for an event you're not going to put on. And I think ultimately investigators will decide that while their actions were taken in the spirit of circumventing the law, they didn't really vote on anything that benefitted them personally. That's really the test here - did they gain anything from their quorum? No.
Why they would take all these risks just to vote to do nothing is beyond me. I know they all thought going forward with that arena site would end up losing them votes in upcoming elections. If they were worried about that all they needed to do was have a vote to allow them to go on the record for their support/nonsupport of the site. Why line up votes on such a meaningless issue? Why bow to such a powerless group on this? They now have this huge scandal because one dude with a few college kids (who don't vote and will not vote) threw a hissy fit. It's just stupid.
The city attorney's hands are tied here. The city attorney works for the council and the mayor. It used to be just the mayor, but that changed a few elections ago. If this ethics complaint had been filed against just one member, the city attorney would have likely let it go forward. However, since this involves roughly half her bosses - enough to vote to fire her (if they get one or two more to flip) - she's not going to touch it. That's just common sense. Don't push an investigation of the very people who employ you - especially since that's not really your job (it's really something the district attorney should always be doing). Just imagine the conversation -
Friend: "How did you lose your job?"
Former City Attorney: "I pursued an investigation into all of my bosses against their wishes."
The other problem here is that the city ethics panel is made up of people appointed by the very people they would be investigating. Do you think a guy appointed by the person he's reviewing will do the right thing? Especially when you have half the appointees facing their appointers. The system is so rigged that it is idiocy defined. I told you a long time ago that it was dumb to let the people who face investigation pick their investigators.
I can't say what the Texas Rangers are going to do here. And as much as "Texas Rangers to investigate" sounds ominous for those targeted in the investigation, it's actually not a big deal. A quick Google news search shows that the local Texas government version of "wait 'til your father gets home" is "we've asked the Texas Rangers to investigate." It means nothing until they give their findings. Just like they are still "investigating" an issue involving former Rep. Larry Romero. And by "investigating" I mean that they've never even called the people involved and asked them questions. Yes, you read that right. My sources say that the people that would be contacted in such an investigation have never been contacted by the Texas Rangers. Take from that what you will.
Bottom line - this was a very stupid issue to get into any amount of trouble over, much less a real investigation by guys who can actually arrest you. Buy hey, El Paso's a city where people do ten years for a $5,000 bribe - y'all ain't the smartest criminals in the world.