in Houston, Texas
Socorro City Council members join the madness of scandal-plagued El Paso area
Friday, Jul 06, 2012, 02:30PM CST
By Curt Olson
handcuffs

El Pasoans have no shortage of scandals involving public officials or public employees.

Take these three recent reports from the El Paso Times:

But not to be outdone, Socorro City Council members provided fireworks of their own on Thursday. Socorro is a city of about 30,000 just to the southeast of El Paso, and also shares a border with Mexico.

Earlier this week the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation of three council representatives and a city police sergeant regarding reimbursements they sought from the city.

The events of the week spilled into Thursday’s City Council meeting. For example, Times reporter Daniel Borunda chronicled how council members bickered even over mundane matters.

From the El Paso Times:

Bickering over even minor matters during a meeting on Thursday showed a clearly divided Socorro City Council that has three members under investigation by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

The investigation comes as the council is sharply split into two factions, which turned a regular government meeting into confrontation on almost everything.

Council members interrupted each other and spoke over each other, and accusations flew furiously during Thursday's meeting.

Whatever El Pasoans call this, it doesn't appear to be the best government for their money.

***
Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us onTwitterand Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of handcuffs by flickr user .v1ctor., used via a Creative Commons license.

After year of throwing roadblocks at El Paso Times, city of Socorro releases settlement with former city manager
Friday, Mar 16, 2012, 11:09AM CST
By Steve Miller
roadblock

It took a year and a state Attorney General’s ruling, but the city of Socorro has released a settlement with its former city manager to the El Paso Times.

The $91,000 agreement with former city manager Carol Garcia was ruled a public record by the AG’s office shortly after the March 2011 settlement as part of a wrongful termination suit by Garcia, the paper writes.

But the city still refused to release the document. The Times filed a complaint with the El Paso County District Attorney’s office, which ordered the release.

Socorro City Attorney Jerry Wallace initially cited attorney-client privilege in withholding the agreement. He then told the AG’s office that the city did not have a copy of the settlement. Next, Wallace tried to refer the Times to the Texas Municipal Liability Pool.

Times Editor Robert Moore said, "The city of Socorro should have made this settlement public almost a year ago. Texas' Public Information Act specifically states that lawsuit settlements involving governments are always public record. This sort of evasiveness in the face of a clear legal responsibility rightfully undermines public trust in Socorro's municipal government.”

Wallace has appealed a number of open records requests to the city and other government entities over the years. In the fall, he failed to file an appeal within the lawful timeframe, and the city was ordered to give up police records.

Garcia is now a project coordinator at the El Paso Collaborative for Community and Economic Development. Her bio lists her as the current city manager of Socorro.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of roadblock by flickr user xxxtoff, used via a Creative Commons license.

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