Editorial: A key test for city ethics ordinanceTuesday, May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016
By El Paso Times Editorial Board
El Paso’s city ethics ordinance, approved in 2009, will get its first major test on Wednesday when the Ethics Review Commission hears a complaint filed against City Manager Tommy Gonzalez.
The ordinance was passed to create an accountability process for elected officials or city employees accused of violating ethical guidelines or city policies, and to separate that accountability from political influence. Any effort by City Council members to influence the Ethics Review Commission process is inappropriate.
The Ethics Review Commission, chaired by El Paso attorney Stuart Schwartz, so far has performed admirably in the investigation of an ethics complaint filed in December by Central El Pasoan Jim Tolbert. The complaint accused Gonzalez and city Rep. Larry Romero of violating numerous city policies in three areas: changes to the City Council-approved street resurfacing plan, the installation of speed humps in front of Cathedral High School, and an attempt to remove the city’s financial adviser.
The City Council appointed Austin attorney Ross Fischer to assist and advise the Ethics Review Commission in handling Tolbert’s complaint. Fischer also did a separate investigation for the council on the financial adviser issue, the city’s handling of public records requests and a 2013 decision by then-City Manager Joyce Wilson to delay the sale of bonds for a new Downtown ballpark.
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