November 27, 2014

On this Thanksgiving day I would like to express my appreciation for the regular readers and commenters on our blog.

With people who care enough to stay informed and active in local situations we have a chance of making our local conditions better.

It takes commitment and time to stay informed and active and I appreciate those of you who do.

Have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving.


Hubris often leads to downfall

November 26, 2014

Should it all be over but the shouting at this point?

One of our county commissioners released an email that our county hospital chief executive sent to him this August 15, 2014.  The email said “There were no bonuses paid in 2014 and we expect no bonuses through this year”.

Then in the early part of November the hospital board awarded the CEO a bonus of almost $120 thousand.  It looks like the county commissioner learned about the bonus through the public’s reaction to the situation.

Did our CEO forget his statement to the county commissioner?  Why did he not clear the record immediately when he decided to receive the bonus?

Was he lying or did he forget?  Could it be that he feels no responsibility to the county commissioners?  The CEO works for the hospital board.  The board is appointed by the commissioners.

To me this is worse than lying to your boss.  This is lying to your boss’s boss, and in effect to the public.

We have seen a disturbing pattern of duplicity from this CEO over the years.  He seems to think that he can tell stories to the public and then do as he wishes.

At this point it is hard to believe what he says.  We need to have confidence in the truthfulness of the people running our public institutions.

We are told that he will soon be announcing a change in plans relative to the children’s hospital.  What part of that can we believe?

We deserve better


Transparently self serving

November 25, 2014

Our county judge was quoted the other day in a Times article about the bonuses the county hospital gave some employees.

Note that some employees evidently got bonuses.  The regular rank and file workers probably did not.  It must have been the special people that did.  I’ll bet the 56 people who got fired did not.

The Times article told us that the county hospital has not disclosed a list of who received a bonus and how much money they received even though the Times has filed a request for the information.  The hospital says that it takes time to compile such complicated data but that they will provide the information in a few days.

Our county judge commented about the lack of transparency over at the county hospital.  She pointed out that her bunch has absolute transparency.  In fact mere members of the public can have access to the financial dealings of the county simply by accessing the county web site.  From the article:

Every check the county writes, salary information and other data are available on the county’s website, she said.

University Medical Center should follow that lead, she said.

“UMC is a public entity and it’s funded by the taxpayers,” Escobar said. “There is no way to build public trust except through transparency.”

I did not remember seeing anything like that on the county web site from my previous visits.  Sure enough there is now a section on their home page captioned “Transparency in Government” that has these links:

- Adopted Budget

- Financial Reports
- Deposits and Disbursements Register
- Raw Format Budget
- Fraud, Waste and Abuse Policy
- Capital Improvement Plan

I decided to look into the paychecks of county employees.  The deposits and disbursements register does not seem to have individual paychecks on it.  Instead, we can see an entry like this one every few months:

            10/03/13 EPCO-PAYROLL FUND  CFS      100413        4,690,015.52   101

Really clear, huh?

Help yourself, try the links above.  The first one ultimately takes you to four different budget books that each have ten to twenty links–all of which you would need to review to see the whole budget.

As far as salary and bonuses go, I have no idea where to find that information.

Our county judge either has never taken the time to review her transparency efforts or she is not telling the truth.

I suppose it is too much to expect the Times reporters to do some fact checking instead of just printing what their benefactors tell them to.

We deserve better


Hard to believe

November 24, 2014

The board of managers of our county hospital has some explaining to do.

They recently gave a six digit bonus to their chief executive officer.

The county hospital experienced some significant events last year.  The readers should be able to remember more but these are the ones I can recall:

  • They had to lay off more than 50 employees because of financial difficulties
  • They reported that the children’s hospital deal that the county hospital CEO heavily promoted has left the hospital holding the bag on 71 million dollars worth of debt
  • They had to take a payday loan, borrowing against next year’s property taxes to make it through the year
  • Our county commissioners gave the hospital authority to issue 151 million dollars of bonds
    • to remodel floors of the hospital that have not been maintained even though we are told that the hospital operates at a profit
    • to build new outpatient clinics, but then just a few weeks later the CEO said that the money will have to be repurposed, whatever that means
  • They had to pay 1.1 million dollars to a woman that was subjected to outrageous treatment just because a federal employee told the doctors and hospital to do it.  From The Texas Tribune:  Aside from the vaginal probe and CT scan, the woman also underwent a forced observed bowel movement, a rectal exam and an X-ray. She was eventually released six hours later then billed $5,000 because she refused to sign a consent-to-search statement.

They gave him a bonus?  In many companies he would have been fired before they even got to this bonus evaluation.

Now one of county commissioners has called for his board member’s resignation.  At least someone has his priorities straight.

This board is appointed by our county commissioners.  We need some changes.

We deserve better



Another lie

November 23, 2014

It has now been over a year since the incident where our west side city representative was accused of threatening a city employee.

His crime?  Evidently telling her that his job required him to trim a tree that was on her property and obstructing street signage.

No one that knows where the case stands is talking.

The Times reported back in October of last year:

City Manager Joyce Wilson said all council members have to go through standard investigative procedures when allegations are raised against them.

“They are treated the same as any other citizen.  An investigation takes place and the outcome is referred to the District Attorney,” she said in an email.

The case has been handed over to the Special Investigation Group, a police unit formed to investigate allegations made against public officials.


Our city representative is not being treated the same as any other citizen.

I hope that  one of our governmental watchdogs that attend city council meetings will ask the question.

We deserve better


More obfuscation

November 22, 2014

Our former city manager accepted a job as the interim chief executive officer of the Upper Rio Grande Valley Workforce Commission in July of this year.

At this point we have heard nothing about the organization launching a talent search for a permanent CEO.

Were we mislead originally?  Was the city manager really hired on a permanent basis?  Could it be that she is doing such a good job that they have figured out that they want to keep her?

If they have decided to keep her why don’t they say so?

We deserve better


Brio system is too expensive

November 21, 2014

I did not want to mix the good with the bad the other day when talking about riding the Brio.

On the minus side the buses ride like a skate board.  The ride is really bumpy.

There is probably a problem with the fare boxes.  Although the ticket I buy is a fancy magnetic striped one I was never required to surrender it to the fare box.  In fact I have yet to see any other passenger do it either.

Unnecessary waste

Right now the buses are pretty much empty.  I have yet to see more than 5 people on a Brio at any one time.

The Sun Metro web site tells us that the buses cost $790,000 each and that they seat 48 passengers.  That comes to about $16,500 per seat.  The traditional buses that the system has been buying cost $525,000 and seat 38 passengers yielding a cost of about $13,800 per seat.

According to the web site it cost $27 million to build the system.  No one can put a cost to the inconvenience we have all endured as the city blockaded Mesa for months while building the extra long stations.


If the city wanted shorten the amount of time that we have to wait for a bus they could have added regular buses.  The buses could keep the same schedule as the Brio’s.  Scheduling could be more dynamic.

We would not have had to build new bus stops.  We would not have had to waste millions of dollars.

We deserve better



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