Sunday, July 15, 2018

HARD WORK, PERSEVERANCE, HAVING PALS GETS YOU PLACES

Special to El Rrun-Rrun

On June 19, during a meeting of the City of Brownsville Commission, library maintenance worker II Francisca H. "Panchita" Lucio was named employee of the month.

She was given the watch and plaque and a pin at the ceremony and the lady, a hard worker according to Library Director Juan Jose Guerra and Information Director Jerry Hedgecock, was always punctual and courteous to library customers.

That's the benevolent Hedgecock handing the worker of the month mementos to Panchita in the graphic at right. 

Mrs. Lucio started work for the city in 2008 as a part-time maintenance worker (20 hours weekly) at $8.71 per hour.

She had a sixth-grade education in Mexico before emigrating to the United States. In the 10 years she has been employed with the city, her personnel record shows that she has missed work maybe five times for illness, family illness, and funerals. Her work ethic, obviously, is sterling.

It was a feel-good moment for everyone, and an obsequious Mayor Tony Martinez got to pronounce a few words in flawless Spanish because the lady doesn't speak English.

She was, of course, thankful for the honor and said as much to the commission and the audience and promised to work even harder in the future.

As she said in the presentation, she appreciates having her job. That job, according to the COB salary lists, after taxes, generates a little over $400 every two weeks. In the 10 years she has been there, her base salary went form $8.71 per hour to her current hourly rate of just above $11 (about $2.30 an hour more). She is paid an annual salary, according to the city salary records, of $11,455.

Juan Jose Guerra, the bespectacled gent with the red tie looking down at the podium, started working part-time for the cityin 1997  as an administrative technician at the library after graduating from the University of Texas at Brownsville in 1996 with a Bachelor in Science at a $5.80 per hourly rate ($6,075 yearly).     

Guerra worked his way up from there and eventually went on to get his Masters in Library Science at North Texas (Denton) in 2002 and came back to work for the city. He graduated from Denton with a 3.75 GPA. Over time (more than 16 years), he has been promoted to the top spot of City Library Director and now earns – according to city salary records – $64,426 a year.

Hedgecock, the big guy in the dark suit with striped tie, is Brownsville's Public information Services Director. He came to work for the city as a computer technician from Harlingen in 1993 where he ran a magazine printing service. He started at $7.96 per hour.

Over the years Hedgecock rose through the ranks to automation technologist, systems analyst, etc., and filled in when there was an vacancy as assistant librarian, acting library director, acting supervisor, etc., Then, when an opening for head of Informational Services in 2006, he applied and made the top three.

The evaluator at the time said Hedgecock got along well with others and knew his way around the system. Among his friends was former city manager Charlie Cabler who regularly approved raises and promotions for Jerry.

The educational requirements were for "A bachelor's degree or education and training equivalent to four years of college education in business, liberal arts, or four or more years in the appropriate field.
That sealed it for Jerry and the evaluator chose him over two other applicants, even though he only has a GED, a high-school diploma equivalence one gets when you don't complete regular high school.

His personnel file is crammed with certificates of attendance to diverse one-day seminars from "Keeping Your Cool," "Sexual Harassment," "Bullying," FEMA Hurricane Awareness and Emergency Management, and the like, as does Guerra's.

Right now he is listed in the city salary schedule making $78,132, almost $14,000 more than Guerra with his Master's Degree.

However, neither Guerra nor Hedgecock have an Employee of the Month certificate like Panchita.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

GBIC ANSWERS: GALONSKY'S CLAIMS INVALID, FRAUDULENT

By Juan Montoya

Image result for nurith galonskyThe Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation has filed a blistering answer to claims made by member/secretary Nurith Galonsky to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order alleging that the hiring of the new executive director was done illegally in violation of the organization's bylaws calling her petition "fraudulent" and asking the court to impose monetary sanctions.

The GBIC is asking Associate District Judge Louis Sorola to dissolve the TRO he issued Wednesday based on claims that the selection of San Antonio-based Toyota executive Mario Lozoya had been illegal because the position of executive director did not exist and that the GBIC board had acted in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act by not posting notice that action would be taken on hiring a director.

The answer was filed electronically Friday afternoon in the 107th District Court.

Associate Judge Louis Sorola issued the TRO ex parte (without the other side present) citing Galonsky's assertions that Lozoya was scheduled to assume his duties on Friday, July 13, two days alter – and that his assumption of duties "exposes the GBIC and the taxpayers to uncertain financial liability due to the vague, uncertain, and questionably enforceable elements of the contract."

She also claimed that the GBIC bylaws did not authorize the hiring of an executive director.

In the 12-page GBIC response, it states that Galonsky had been appointed to the board of the sales-tax funded board in October 2017, and that the search for an executive director had started in  November 2017, one month after she was appointed. When she came on board, Gilberto Salinas had been interim executive director since late 2016.

The answer continues that Galonsky never objected to the search for an executive director and that the minutes of the board's meetings show that she was in agreement to proceed with the search and seconded the motion to authorize such an action.

"She never expressed any objections to Mr. Salinas serving as interim executive director; it is only now that Mr. Lozoya has been selected that she suddenly believes that there is no legal authority for such a position," the answer continues. "Given the above, her objection to the title of 'executive director' is...ludicrous; there is a difference between directors/ board members and a hired executive director – to say otherwise is just semantics."

As far as the alleged Texas open Meetings Act violations, the GBIC quotes her motion for a TRO and says she admits that notice to consider and hire an executive director was posted on June 21 and stated: "Discussion and possible action on Executive Director Search."

The urgency of attaining a TRO from the court was also obtained under false pretenses, the GBIC answer continues, because while Galonsky's TRO petition claimed Lozoya was to start work on July 13 and would cause the GBIC and taxpayers "irreparable harm," the agreement he signed with chairman Cesar De Leon clearly states that he was not to take office on July 13, but rather that "your full-time start date will be on or before August 1, 2018."

Additionally, the GBIC answer asserts that she failed to show there was no adequate remedy available her to obtain the TRO and that she obtained it fraudulently by using another entity's bylaws. In the TRO petition, Galonsly – an attorney – and her legal counsel David Willis attached a copy of the bylaws of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) to show the GBIC board lacked the authority to hire an executive direction.

The GBIC also charges that Galonsky and her counsel violated Cameron County Local Rule 1.3 (b) which requires plaintiffs seeking a TRO to ascertain the defendants are not represented by counsel and if they are, that counsel has been notified and does not wish to be heard, and that the plaintiff's counsel has made a diligent effort to notify them and has been unable to do so.
 
 "In the present case," the GBIC answer continues, "(Galonsky) has made no such effort. Furthermore, (she) knows very well that the defendant is represented by counsel, Mr. Luis Hernandez. (She) is a board member...and has actual knowledge that Mr. Hernandez) is GBIC's attorney...counsel for (Galonsky) indeed made no such diligent efforts."

Image result for louis sorola, judge"(GBIC) would argue that this was a calculated and intentional disregard of the local rules to improperly obtain an ex-parte TRO from this court," it states. "Therefore, this TRO should be in all things be dissolved."

When Galonsky petitioned the court saying that "an act of violation of a statute may be enjoined without showing that the legal remedy is inadequate," she cited 30-year-old case law that had been overturned by a more recent Texas supreme Court decision that a showing of no adequate remedy at law is in fact required to obtain injunctive relief. Since Lozoya's contract didn't go into effect until August 1, she had ample time at the time she sougth the TRO to seek an adequate remedy.

"Should the court believe (Galonsky's) assertion that there were violations of the Open Meetings Act, any such procedural defects can be cured via having a new notice and an agenda posted, another meeting held, and a vote to accept an identically structured contract taken," the answer notes. "(She) in her pleadings, admits that a majority of the board members are in favor of proceeding with the hiring of Mr. Loszoya. The only thing preventing this course of action from already taking place is the TRO. Such a course of action makes this lawsuit completely moot."

GBIC's answer also asserts that the court was "completely and intentionally misled" by (Galonsky) because she attached the bylaws of the BCIC and not the GBIC.

"They are not even an old version of the GBIC's bylaws. They are, in fact, bylaws from another corporation entirely – the BCIC's..." The current bylaws of the GBIC clearly show, the answer asserts, that the board is authorized to enter into contracts.


The actual bylaws of Texas Development Corporations such as the GBIC, the answer continues, contain a "provision (Section 502.051) that clearly authorized the board of directors to enter into a contract for employment with an executive director."

(a) Except under a written contract approved by the corporation's board of directors, a corporation may not pay compensation, including a commission or fee, or another thing of value to a broker, agent, or other third party who:

(1) is involved in business recruitment or development;  and
(2) is not an employee of the corporation.


In GBIC's motion for sanctions, it states that: "(Galonsky) cannot honestly say that this was an honest mistake. (She) is a board member and secretary of the GBIC. She is also an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Texas. She should be held to a higher standard that a layperson or other, not board member, citizen of Brownsville...(She) despite being an attorney and having advice of counsel, swore to untrue statements.

"This, combined with (her) disregard of Cameron County Local Rule 1.3 (to give notice to defendant), shows a blatant attempt to mislead this court and obtain injunctive relief pn fraudulent grounds.

"If the law allows any board member of any governmental corporation or governmental entity that does not prevail on any given issue to bring suit and get extraordinary injunctive relief, then all governmental entities will be thrown into chaos."

Claiming that the GBIC had been forced to incur "significant" attorneys' fees in responding to this (TRO) petition and in attempting to have "this improper and fraudulently obtained TRO resolved," the answer asks the court to pay attorneys' fees in the amount of $8,500.

The hearing on whether to make the order permanent or dissolve the TRO will be heard by Sorola in the 107th District Court this coming Wednesday, July 18.

CAMERON PARK, SURROUNDING AREA WITHOUT SAFE WATER



CALL FOR ALL-INCLUSIVE COORDINATOR BIT LATE FOR DE LEON

By Juan Montoya

A call for the City of Brownsville to vote on creating an an all-inclusive coordinator position would oversee all activities, awareness and other accommodations for the special needs community is coming a bit late for former city employee Sandra de Leon.

De Leon, who is disabled, said she could have used such an advocate when she worked for the city two years ago after 15 years employment and was terminated by insensitive supervisors for what she says were reasons related to her disability.

According to city commissioners Jessica Tetreau and Cesar de Leon, Brownsville receives many calls asking for officials to increase accessibility throughout the area. They are asking the commission to vote on creating an all-inclusive coordinator position who they say would oversee all activities, awareness and other accommodations for the special needs community.

"The special needs community should be represented and these families have different needs than what ours are. So, I just want the city to cater more and make these children and community members know that Brownsville is an all-inclusive city," Tetreau told the local daily.

De Leon was a grant writer and started working with the Brownsville Health Department. While she was there Director Art Rodriguez prevented her from using the handicapped parking until she had provided him with a note from her doctor. De Leon told him that her doctor had filled out the paperwork on the nature of her condition with Cameron County and that the disability was protected by doctor/patient confidentiality.

The city agreed with Rodriguez and kept her from using the handicapped parking space and De Leon said she had to threaten to contact a lawyer to initiate a legal defense before Rodriguez and the city relented and allowed her to use the handicapped parking space.

While she was there, in September 2012, fellow city employee Willie Gonzalez was involved in a shooting at a local nightclub. News accounts at the time indicated that Gonzalez had been involved in a late-night altercation and that, feeling threatened outside in the parking lot, pulled out a gun from the glove compartment of his car and shot a man and injured a woman. The man was left permanently disabled.

(Gonzalez, by the way, was the son of longtime city secretary Lydia Gonzalez who had a close relationship with city manager Charlie Cabler.)

That was on a Wednesday. On that Friday, after working hours, employees were called to an informal meting and told Gonzalez would be returning to work on Monday and were asked not to talk about or mention the shooting under threat of a formal reprimand or termination. De Leon, who had run-ins with Gonzalez in the past because of his inappropriate comments about her disability, stayed at work typing a letter to her supervisor expressing her concern and fear about him returning.

As a result, the city a had a guidance counselor sit with her for six sessions and came to the conclusion that she was in an unsafe environment.

That, and the fact that she felt it was unfair when Rodriguez transferred a woman he knew on a personal basis from her job answering calls at the Brownsville Animal Shelter to the City Plaza Building.

Those events led to then-Asst. City Manager Jeff Johnston to move De Leon to the Parks and Recreation at the old Boys and Girls Club on the corner of Eighth and Tyler streets.

That's when her real troubles started. Since the building was not ADA compliant, she suffered an ankle injury. Then-director Chris Patterson was trying to help her with Traffic when he left the city. Incoming director Damaris McGlone started using the handicapped space and told De Leon she could not enforce it since there was no signage on it.

But the parking space was the least of her worries at the time. Her overriding concern was the rat infestation in the building. On August 2014, she asked that two traps be placed near her desk to control the rats' spread. By October, the traps were being replaced almost daily and the number of traps had been increased to five.

One of the rodents had dropped from the ceiling and got caught in a sticky trap that city workers had placed near her work space.

After a month from November to December without traps, the infestation had become too great and the rats had eaten through the wiring between the ceiling and the roof.
Image result for decomposing rat
For the next three weeks the department was without phones or Internet. That's when a decomposed rat was found underneath De Leon's desk and she was placed on a breathing machine to clear the resulting spores from her lungs.

The result was that the city had to replace the ceiling, wiring and roof to rid the building of the pests. De Leon, whose disability was compounded by the infestation, bothered her supervisors and she was given a performance evaluation on June 2015 and scored 13 even though a score of 9 is required for probation.

She was nonetheless placed on probation after 15 years employment and when she asked them if it had been her complaints about the rats that had triggered that determination, the reply was that the building was old and that "this sort of thing was to be expected."

 She was also told her performance was not "up to par."

The next week, Parks and Recreation was awarded a grant that for which De Leon had written the application. Two days before Thanksgiving , De Leon was terminated. As a result of the bad evaluation and termination, prospective employees have turned her down.

It is good and well that the city commission is considering the hiring of an all-inclusive coordinator position to advocate for Special Needs residents and employees. Unfortunately, for De Leon, the move comes one job short and two years late.

Friday, July 13, 2018

SUDDENLY, GALONSKY WANTS TO "PROTECT" PUBLIC'S MONEY

By Juan Montoya

When Nurith Galonsky was appointed to the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation in October 2017, she didn't complain that the sales-tax funded economic development entity erred in hiring interim executive director Gilbert Salinas in November 2016 because it was not authorized in its by-laws.

Just a month before her appointment, the members of the GBIC had voted to cut ties with the Brownsville Economic Development Corporation and to hire nationally-recognized headhunter Jorgensen Consulting to find a permanent executive director.

When she came aboard, she said nothing, but participated in the executive sessions where its representatives told them how the search was coming along.

Then, as the process moved along, Jorgensen narrowed the search to three finalists to the position – including Salinas – and a majority of the five-member board seemed to be inclined to hire San Antonio-based Toyota director of Governmental and External Affairs Mario Losoya instead of Salinas.

In a June 21 meeting, a majority of the board authorized GBIC chairman (and city commissioner) Cesar De Leon, to negotiate a contract with Lozoya. The vote was 3-0 since Galonsky, infuriated that the majority voted against her choice, left in a huff and didn't vote.

De Leon and GBIC attorney Luis Hernandez met with the candidate and – after tweaking the contract – agreed to negotiated terms with Lozoya. They inked it on June 24, and the negotiated contract was brought back for approval to the GBIC board on June 26.

At that meeting, Galonsky and GBIC member John Cowen voted against the contract and the majority – De Leon, city commission Jessica Tetreau and Cameron County Treasurer David Betancourt – voted to approve it.

Miffed, Galonsky filed a petition for a Temporary Restraining Order on Wednesday, July 11, two days before Losoya was to take over as GBIC executive director. In it, she made some conveniently self-serving claims. She claimed that unless the TRO was issued by Associate District Judge Louis Sorola, the contract "exposes GBIC and the taxpayers to uncertain financial liability due to the vague, uncertain, and questionably enforceable elements of the contract."

Under the negotiated terms, Losoya was to receive a five-year contract with a $225,000 salary with an additional $30,000 if he met the benchmarks set by GBIC at the end of each year.

Galonsky said she found this objectionable because, as she told the local daily: "We are dealing with taxpayers' money...This is a very risky way to commit Brownsville's sales-tax revenue."

Gratuitously, the other "nay' vote, Cowen, alleged Lozoya could not be terminated for "non-performance, apparenlty oblivisous to the fact that while Salinas was at the BEDC his "non-performace" as CEO Jason Hilts' Tonto resulted in $100,000s in squandered public funds with little to show for their worldwide jaunts.

Martinez and a host of elected officials and bureaucrats travels the globe on the public dime GBIC paid the BEDC and nothing from Cowen then.
Galonsky, also an appointed member of the Brownsville Public Utility Board and an appointee to the city-manager search committee, apparently doesn't see the irony in her statements.

After all, she was content to have her father – Brownsville real estate mogul Abraham Galonsky – take $2.3 million from the city for La Casa Del Nylon, a shell of a building that remains empty and a magnet for the homeless of the city four years after the purchase of he useless building.

Mayor Tony Martinez convinced
the other members of the city commission to pay for the building using Certificates Of Obligation (COs), public-debt money, with the justification that the University of Texas System said it would buy it to relocate part of its campus downtown. Martinez knew that Cos didn't require voter approval. His assertion that UT wanted the property turned out not to be true and the taxpayers got the shaft.

Yet, nary a peep from frugal Nurith.

And as a member of the PUB, she has remained silent as the building of the promised Tenaska gas-fueled, electric-generating $500 million plant that was supposed to be constructed and producing 800 MWs of electricity by the middle of 2017 never has materialized.

Toward that end, the city commission in 2013 approved a 35 percent hike in electric, water and waste water rates. We're in the middle of 2018 and construction of the plant hasn't even begun and more than $100 million generated by the higher rates is piled in the coffers of the PUB where Nurith sits on the board.

And as far as the $225,000 salary for Losoya contained in the contract, Galonsky said it was way too high since the former city manager was paid $225,000 who oversaw 1,200 employees. Why doesn't she look in her own backyard at PUB? There, the top three executives have given themselves raises of $100,000 each over three years. PUB has a total workforce of 500 and provides only 46,000 industrial, commercial and residential customers with electric service.

Between 2013 to 2017 (since the rate increases have been in effect), CEO John Bruciak's salary increased by $109,169 from $184,059 to $294,028. After similar raises over the same period of times, Ass. CEO Fernando Saenz now makes $264,902 and Leandro Garcia makes $255,088. Where's the competence here when these three energy gurus all recommended that PUB raise rates to build the Tenaska plant?

Galonsky also complained that as secretary of the GBIC her signature was necessary to ink the Lozoya contract. But she was very selective in quoting the GBIC bylaws. She said in her TRO petition that: under Section 4.05 titles "President," it grants him the authroty to sign contracts "with the Secretary" which the board has authorized to be executed. Well, yes and no. What it actually says is:


 So if the majority of the board delegates the signing and execution to De Leon or "any other proper officer of the corporation" like the board attorney, her signature is not really needed and it's a valid contract, right?

The board, not an individual member, or in this case, a minority member (Galonsky), is considered a "constituted authority and instrumentality" under the Texas Development Corporation Act.



To read entire By-Laws, click on link: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=643034ff4a&view=att&th=16493251aa61a2b7&attid=0.1&disp=inline&safe=1&zw

The fact that she did not agree with the majority's choice for executive director is not enough justification to throw a log on the tracks and derail the economic development train. She is a member of the city manager selection committee. If she does not agree with a majority there on the selection, will she sue them, too?

(We have heard rtumnors that Nurith, Martinez, and other city officials involved in this debacle may be part of a lawsuit filed by private citizens tired of their shenenigans and waste of public funds.)

The majority of the board – under the direction of Jorgensen's Consulting – has made its choice after performing its due diligence. That their choice did not please Galonsky or her political godfather Da Mayor Tony Martinez should not be reason for this city's economic development efforts to be thrown back into the arms of the politically corrupt – and proven inept – clutches of the Brownsville Economic Development Council.

As far as the Texas Open Meetings Act issues, once the TRO is removed and the lawsuit makes its way through the courts, those issues will also be found to be baseless and this whole exercise a waste of taxpayers' time and money like her father and Da Mayor's Casa del Nylon.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

BYLAWS ATTACHED TO TRO PETITION ERRONEOUS, OBSOLETE

Special to El Rrun-Rrun

It had been speculated by courthouse observers that Sorola had called a hearing today to reconsider the Temporary Restraining Order he issued Wednesday stopping the Greater Brownsville Incentive Corporation from hiring San Antonio Toyota executive Mario Lozoya.

However, no action was taken in open court and no record exists of the remarks between the judge and lawyers for plaintiff Nurith Galonsky, a member and secretary of the GBIC board, and defense attorneys for the majority of the board who voted for Lozoya.

Galonsky and board member John Cowen voted against approving the five-year contract with Lozoya. The majority - chairman and city commissioner Cesar De Leon, Cameron County Treasurer David BetanoCurt and board member Jessica Tetreau-Kaifa - voted to approve it.

Citing the urgency of  the matter at hand, the court issued the TRO and scheduled a hearing on the matter next Wednesday saying that Galonsky had claimed that allowing Lozoya to start work Friday at the GBIC would cause the plaintiffs to suffer irreparable harm.

In the TRO, the court said that it was taking the action ex parte despite not having heard the defendants' side on the matter because of the urgency of the issue.

Usually, the plaintiffs' attorneys inform the defendants' attorneys of filings out of courtesy or upcoming legal actions in court against their clients. This time Galonsky's attorneys did not and the court did not hear the other side.

But a review of the TRO petition indicates that Galonsky, despite being the secretary of the GBIC board, attached a 2012 version of the Brownsville  Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) by-laws they alleged prevented the GBIC board from hiring a director. Neither the plaintiffs nor their attorneys told the court that they were from the BCIC, not the GBIC, or that the GBIC had updated their bylaws in 2017.

The obsolete bylaws of the BCIC have been published online and have been used to assert that the GBIC board majority acted illegally. The board was guided by a professional head-hunting firm which vetted all the candidates and recommend the best candidate and the recommendation was Lozoya.

That, and other issues, are to be aired on Wednesday.

BUSINESS IS BOOMING FOR BISD TRUSTEES UP FOR REELECTION

By Juan Montoya

In the last four years that trustees Cesar Lopez, Joe Rodriguez and Carlos Elizondo have been in office, vendors they listed as being associated with them on conflict of interest disclosure forms have been paid 23,477,541by the Brownsville Independent School District.

The vendors listed range from law firms, sports equipment manufacturers, an EMT and firefighter academy, and the BuyBoard associated with the Texas Association of School Boards of Education (TASBE).

Trustees are required, when they have a personal interest in vendors, to fill in a disclosure form or an affidavit of conflict of interest. Also, they cannot deliberate, discuss, or vote on agenda items related to the vendors listed in their affidavits, a rule that is almost always ignored.

In any case, even if these three don't vote on items from vendors they disclose, their colleagues on the majority vote in their stead.

In the case of trustee Joe Rodriguez, his affidavits stated that he has a son (Tony) who is a member of the law firm Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez, and Kennamer LLP.

Since he has been a trustee this time around, BISD general counsel Baltazar Salazar has tapped the firm to represent the district in a number of law cases, notably, the First Amendment lawsuit filed against the district by former trustees Catalina Presas-Garcia and Lucy Longoria. One of the trustees sued was Rodriguez as was legal counsel Baltazar.

That case has since voluntarily been dismissed, but not before the firm owned by Tony Rodriguez's firm racked up $88,521 in legal fees from the district representing it in the First Amendment and other lawsuits.

Another – more profitable firm – for "Coach" Joe, the vendor, has been BSN Sports, which sells athletic equipment under its Varsity Sports parent company umbrella. BSN Sports has been paid $1,638,739 by the BISD the last four years that Rodriguez has been on the board. In his affidavit, he states that he draws more than 10 percent of his personal income from BSN.

Image result for joe rodriguez, bisdAs a vendor, Rodriguez gets a percentage commission from BSN. If he gets a 10 percent commission, that means that in the four years he has been its representative and  trustee, he pocketed $163,873.

It is doubtful that Rodriguez, a senior representative of the firm would settle for 10 percent. If he gets a 15 percent commission, it would be $245,810. And if he gets 20 percent, as it is believed, he has made $327,747 in the last four years as their representative.

Image result for carlos elizondo, brownsvilleIn the case of Carlos Elizondo, he filed a disclosure statement listing his relationship with International Academy of Emergency Medical Training LLC, the company the district hired to teach basic EMT and firefighter courses to its students. So far, IAEMT has been paid $943,080 for teaching those classes. In their June 5 meeting, the board approved paying the firm $330,000 for the 2018-2019 school year.

IAEMT also has a teaching contract with Texas Southmost College which Elizondo was instrumental in acquiring while he was the city's fire chief.

Elizondo is currently facing 15 charges including theft, violation of his  fiduciary duties, and for breaching the security of a computer system belonging to the fire department after he had been suspended and told not to log into the site.

As far as former board president Cesar Lopez, he is listed as a South/Southeast Texas and El Paso
representative of the Texas Association School Boards of Education BuyBoard, which pays his salary. We understand he also gets a commission for increases of TASBE BuyBoard sales in the region he works. In the four years that he has been a BISD board member, the district has paid BuyBoard vendors $20,806,301.

The BISD, like other governmental entities, has increasingly entered into agreements with purchasing cooperatives to buy goods and services without having to go through the normal bidding process. Some local elected officials have complained that this leaves out vendors who live in the district and who may not be able to afford the membership dues.

In some cases, they say that the goods and services can be acquired cheaper from local suppliers who pay district taxes and hire local people. The BuyBoard procurement process, they say, effectively leaves out these suppliers.

In the case of the BISD, this means that more than $20 million in local assets have been sent out of the district to places like Houston, Austin and San Antonio from a district which is located in the poorest community in the United States. Lopez – as was counsel Salazar – was highly critical of Presas-Garcia for her $2 million against board members and the district. But taking $20 million from the local economy seems small potatoes compard to the $20 that leave with BuyBoard purchases.

Lopez, just yesterday, resigned as president citing personal problems, and handed the reins of the board to the vice-president...Elizondo, who will go on trial for theft and breach of computer security this summer.

We are currently seeking information about Lopez's salary and commission from his employment as a TASBE BuyBoard representative.

We have also learned from other sources that all three of these trustees have indicated they will run for reelection to the BISD board in November. If you were drawing these kind of rewards, wouldn't you?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

BISD ADMIN: CESAR LOPEZ OUT, ELIZONDO BOARD PRESIDENT


By BISD Administration

Mr. Cesar Lopez recently announced that he is stepping down as President of the Board of Trustees.

Mr. Lopez was first appointed to the board in 2013 and was then elected to a four-year term in November of 2014. 

He has been the Board President for one year and six months and has dutifully served in various committees. 

In keeping with district policy, Mr. Carlos A. Elizondo assumed the duties of President of the Board.

(The idea that Elizondo, who is facing 15 charges or theft and breach of security after he allegedly logged into the City of Brownsville fire department computers and is out on bond pending his criminal trial on those charges, can be made president of the BISD board is ludicrous.

Lopez was said to have been under family pressure to step down as president of the board. He will remain on the board. Both have filed affidavits of conflict of interest in relation to two firms doing  business with the district.

The board must now vote to make the changes official.)

GALONSKY, LOSING SIDE IN GBIC CEO HIRING GETS TRO

Special to El Rrun-Rrun

An associate district judge has signed a Temporary Restraining Order stopping the contract offered by a  majority of the members of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation to San Antonio Toyota executive Mario Lozoya.

Courthouse records indicate Associate Judge Louis Sorola issued the TRO on behalf of GBIC board member and Secretary Nurith Galonsky.
.
She is named as the plaintiff in the lawsuit against the three board members who authorized GBIC president Cesar de Leon to negotiate and come to an agreement with Losoya June 21. They are De Leon, Cameron County Treasurer David Betancourt and commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa. De Leon is also a city commissioner.

Sorola signed the TRO this morning.Representing Galonsky, who is also a member of the Brownsville Public Utility Board and a member of the city-manager search committee. Galonsky was represented by attorney David Wllis.

A hearing on whether to make the TRO permanent is scheduled for July 18.

At the heart of the Nurith request for a TRO was her contention that De Leon was not authorized to sign the c contract with Lozoya, but that he bring back the agreed-upon negotiated contract for the vote by the full GBIC board.

However, observers at the meeting indicate that Nurith left because she did not agree with delegating the negotiations to the GBIC president and didn't vote on authorizing him to reach an agreement with the GBIC CEO candidate. She left before the meeting had ended. GBIC member John Cowen did not attend that meeting

After De Leon brought back the negotiated contract June 26, the members again went voted on whether to approve the changes agreed to upon by Lozoya and De Leon. At that time, Galonsky and Cowen voted against the contract containing the changes approved by the majority.

Under the five-year contract approved b y the majority, Lozoya would receive a $200,000 salary plus $30 year bonuses if he met the board's benchmarks.

HERALD: D.A. OBJECTS TO RELEASE OF OLIVEIRA BLOOD TEST

By Mark Reagan
Staff Writer
Image result for rene oliveiraThe Brownsville Herald

The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office has sought a Texas Attorney General’s ruling to determine whether it must release the results from a blood draw administered to State Rep. Rene Oliveira after an April drunk driving arrest.

The Brownsville Police Department arrested Oliveira, who lost his long-held seat in the Texas House of Representatives during a May runoff with Cameron County Commissioner Alex Dominguez, on April 28 and charged him with drunk driving after he left the scene of a car crash.

In its request for an opinion to the AG, the DA’s office said it believes the information is not subject to disclosure because it relates to a pending criminal investigation and prosecution of a crime. 

The request also cites two AG opinions from 2001 and 2003 in which it ruled against similar requests. According to the request, the Texas Supreme Court also has found that such information is confidential.

However, court records do show that Oliveira is being charged with driving while intoxicated with a blood alcohol content greater than 0.15 percent, which is nearly double the legal limit in Texas of 0.08 percent.

IS JP SALAZAR VIOLATING POLICY BY HIRING HER HALF SISTER?

By Juan Montoya

The Cameron County Personnel Policy under section 3.05 manual states unequivocally that "no person may be hired who is related within the second degree by affinity (marriage or within the third degree by consanguinity (blood) to any member of the Commissioners’ Court, to a County official who appoints him or her to the position, or to any employee who would directly supervise his or her job performance."

Yet, for months, perhaps years now, it has been an open secret that JP 2-1 Linda Salazar has had her half sister Beatriz Muñivez working under her direct supervision as a court assistant. Her annual pay, according to the county's salary, schedule is $31,873. (See graphic at right below. Click to enlarge.)

Image result for linda salazar, JP 2-1Salazar's salary is set at $57,343 after her $5,400 car allowance and annual 960 phone allowance.

Cameron County Clerk marriage records indicate that Salazar far outpaces the other county JPs in marriages performed during the year. In the past two years, she has averaged over 600 weddings. At an average of a $200 fee per marriage, it adds up to some $120,000 yearly above her county salary which she gets to keep according to state law.

Some law enforcement officers have complained that they have been kept waiting or turned away from her court because she is too busy performing the lucrative weddings.

Salazar (née Muñivez ) first married her first husband named Cortez and later her second husband with a last name of Salazar. Her older son Ruben Cortez is the Democratic Party nominee for the Texas State Board of Education and will face City of Brownsville IT Specialist Tad Hasse in the November general election.

Her other son, Mark Cortez, has filed his treasurer's appointment to run for trustee of the Brownsville Independent School District.

But while it will be up to the voters to decide those races, the fact that Salazar directly supervises her half sister in her position inside her office has raised serious questions on whether that violates the county's nepotism policy.

Several critics say that the issue may be brought before the commissioners court for their review and possible corrective action.

The county's nepotism policy states that : "In the event that two current county employees become related in a manner prohibited by this section, the two parties will be given a reasonable time for one or the other to secure another position, either within the County in another department, or outside County government. For purposes of this policy, a reasonable time will not normally exceed two months. If the two parties cannot decide which of them will forfeit his or her job, the party with the least seniority will be terminated."

Since the relationship between Salazar and her sister fall well within the "third degree by consanguinity (blood)" even before both were employed by the county, it would seem that little question remains that the situation cannot continue in direct violation of county policy. Was it an oversight by the JP that her sister got a job in her office?

And what will the commissioners court do? Will it give the situation a wink and a nod? Or will it adhere to the policy stated in its personnel policy manual?

35-YEAR VETERAN EDUCATOR RUNNING FOR BISD BOARD

By Juan Montoya

For a little over 35 years, Tim (Timmy to his friends) Ramirez was in the trenches of education at the Brownsville Independent School District.

He started out as a teacher at Clearwater elementary, then move up to Central Middle School, and then Cummings.

Cumming since has become a technical training center for the BISD, and Ramirez says his years of experience as teacher, coach and department head and his participation in the various committees that make the BISD work can bring insights from the classroom to the policy-making board.

"I am a strong advocate of proving a strong curriculum," he said recently. "That's why I want to run for the board and share the experience I have accumulated over that time and help our district regain its status as one of the best in South Texas."

There are three trustees whose election terms are expiring this November. They are Cesar Lopez, Carlos Elizondo and Joe Rodriguez. So far, two candidates – Erasmo Castro and Mark Cortez – have filed their treasurer appointments. Ramirez says he will file his shortly. And, unlike the trustees whose terms are expiring, he says he does not do business with the district and has no plans to become a vendor.

Although he has not said what place he will seek, Ramirez says that the the competition from charter schools to the BISD has resulted in lower enrollments that are costing the district attendance funds.

For example, during a recent budget presentation, the administration said this year – 2017-2018 – the district will have the lowest enrollment in the last 10 years with 45,578 students. The peak year during that time was $49,800 in 2010-2011, he said. The average daily attendance (ADA) which is used by the State of Texas to provide school districts funds dipped downward as well, with 41,578, also the lowest in the last 10 years. That trend, Ramirez said, must be addressed.

"I believe that if we offer our students a meaningful curriculum we will retain the," he said. "As it is, the BISD can offer students in our district much more than the charter schools can to prepare them to compete in the global market place. We just have to let them and the people know what we have to offer."

Ramirez has also worked with college-bound students in the University of Texas' Brownsville Kids College Program. A Sunday School teacher, he has also volunteered his time as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) which assists minors going through the local courts. A father of two, he has a daughter who graduated from Hanna and a son currently attending there.

DOWNTOWN GUIDE; THE BUZZ BY HALF MOON, VELASQUEZ


Special to El Rrun-Rrun
Dear Friends of Downtown Brownsville

The graphic above is a file for a Historic Downtown Entertainment Venues Post.
This has been posted on several FB sites already and gotten some good feedback.
I have however been told that I am missing Sportsman, Carta Brava and El Barril.
This was because the original design was to feature late night venues that featured live entertainment around Market Square downtown. 

We did include La Movidita Bar but failed to include Carta Brava but as you can see space was short in this layout format. We apologize and will replace this with another graphic on a Facebook page that will be able to feature ALL entertainment venues downtown.


Thank you for supporting our downtown.

Graphic Designer Gilbert Velasquez
P.S. A limited amount of printed copies will be available at the Half Moon Saloon.

Friday, July 6, 2018

LIKE CLOCKWORK, LESS THAN 1/2 INCH OF RAIN, FLOODS


















GBIC OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCES MARIO LOZOYA AS NEW CEO



A Rio Grande Valley native and decorated serviceman returns home to lead Brownsville’s economic development agency

Following a national search, The Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation (GBIC) hired Mario Lozoya to become its new Executive Director.

Most recently, Lozoya served as director of government relations and external affairs in the corporate communications office of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas Inc. His responsibilities included leading Toyota’s workforce development efforts, establishing and nurturing local supply chains, and enhancing the economic transformation of south San Antonio. He was also charged with engaging city, county, state, federal government officials and agencies as well as serving on various state and federal boards.
Image result for mario lozoya, run run
Lozoya brings valuable experience in career and technical education at the state and national levels, and has been instrumental in redirecting state policy in this area. He was appointed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to the Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) Grant Program advisory board– a program that allocates 10 million dollars each biennium for the development of career and technical education programs across Texas.

Lt. Gov. Patrick also appointed Lozoya to the advisory council for Pathways in Technology and Early College High School (P-TECH). The 13-member board is tasked with promoting education and business partnerships across the state and ensuring that the Texas education system prepares students for 21st century workforce demands.

His workforce development efforts in the advanced manufacturing community via the establishment of the TX-FAME (Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education) project in San Antonio was instrumental in creating a skilled workforce that catalyzed economic development and positive change in the region.

“Mr. Lozoya’s specific experience in economic development based on creating skills and workforce development together with technology and innovation will be the foundation for the economic development strategy of the City of Brownsville and the entire Rio Grande Valley,” stated GBIC Board Chair Cesar de Leon.

"It is an inclusive and equitable economic development approach based on creating the competitive conditions to develop our local firms, create new ones and attract investments in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology.” added de Leon.

Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos has worked with Lozoya and understands the value of regional cooperation. “Adopting a sound policy for regional economic development collaboration amongst all communities in the Rio Grande Valley will be the key to achieving sustainable economic prosperity for this dynamic border community,” Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos stated.

“Mario has what it takes to convene the region’s stakeholders and lead them into a new era of unbridled and systematic regional cooperation and coordination. Brownsville and the entire RGV are lucky to have him.”

Lozoya’s experience working with education leaders to create training opportunities linked to high demand jobs has benefited districts in South San Antonio, and he has already shared that expertise with Brownsville ISD schools.
Image result for esperanza zendejas 
“Mr. Lozoya has made it possible for us to acquire robots for our teaching programs and is working with us to develop curricula in advanced manufacturing,” stated superintendent of schools at BISD, Esperanza Zendejas, PhD. “Our students and community are going to benefit greatly from his appointment.”

Even with all the contributions he’s made in Texas, nationally and overseas, Lozoya is enthused to be able to return to South Texas, the region he calls home. “I’m honored and thankful to have been entrusted with this responsibility,” stated Lozoya.

“This position provides an opportunity for me to be a part of a transformative change in how we approach economic development in South Texas.”

Mario is a retired U.S. Marine, having served 23 years in active duty. He is a decorated combat veteran of the Iraq War and has completed long-term deployments in South Korea, Japan and the Middle East.

Lozoya is also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) in Washington, where he served as a chair of the governance committee. The work of the CHCI is to provide leadership programs and educational services to students and emerging Latin leaders.

Additionally, an active member of the community, Lozoya is also a member of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, chairman of the workforce committee for My Brother’s Keeper in San Antonio and vice-chair of the workforce committee for the Texas Association of Manufacturers.

Mario’s parents Hilda and Miguel Lozoya emigrated from Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas in 1968 and reside in McAllen Texas. He has three children. Michelle is a teacher and has a Masters degree from the University of Southern California. His sons Anthony and Michael are students at the University of Texas in San Antonio.

A press conference and welcome reception is scheduled at the Young House on July 18 at 1:30 p.m.

PORT BOOSTERS OF BIG RIVER STEEL PLANT PROVED WRONG

(Ed.'s Note: The decision by Big river Steel to expand their plant in Osceola, Ark., instead of building a new $1.6 billion plant at the Port of Brownsville was made June 29, a week ago. Yet, the neither the commissioner nor the administrators at the Brownsville Navigation District saw fit to tell the public about the decision. Contrast this to the fanfare with which the announcement was made April 24 that the company had agreed to a lease option of 800 acres at the port, which apparently, was something initiated by OmniTrax, the 30-year franchise holder of the port's railroad. Why? Read on and make your mind up for yourself.) 

By Juan Montoya
Scratch another fake accomplishment by OmniTrax and the Port of Brownsville Commission.

Even before Osceola, Ark.-based Big River Steel had decided where it would build a second plant that cost $1.6 billion, OmniTrax and the commissioners inked an option to lease deal with much fanfare to announce the steel maker would enter into an agreement with the port that would secure 800 acres of property to the company.

Image result for PORT OF BROWNSVILLE JOHN WOOD SIGNS SWITCHYARD AGREEMENT“This is good news for Brownsville and the result of hard work by many individuals and organizations over a long period of time. Our rail partner OmniTRAX played an important role in introducing this opportunity to the port,” stated John Wood, then-Chairman of the BND.

The deal was inked on April 24. About two months later, on June 29, the company announced that it was staying put in Arkansas and increase its investment there by $1.2 billion.

There is some irony in this. The Mexico-imposed tariffs of 25 percent on U.S. Steel in retaliation to for the 25 percent tariffs on Mexican products that included steel appliances would have wiped out any profit margin the company might have had coming down to the border.

And the Sate of Arkansas' generous incentives for the company to stay there with the 500 jobs at a $75,000 salary also played a role. Senate Bill 688 passed just last year allows for Big River Steel to receive millions of dollars more in tax credits annually for expanding in Arkansas.

The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson as far back as in April 2017. According to the Department of Finance and Administration, SB 688 would lead to a reduction in state revenue of up to $11 million per year for qualifying expansion projects.

The results of that legislation was not missed by Hutchinson in comments included in the press release announcing the expansion in Arkansas instead of building  anew one at the Port of Brownsville.

“When Big River Steel chose Arkansas as the site of its new plant, it was the largest economic development project in the state’s history,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson. “Our state’s pro- business climate has led to the company deciding to expand here. That means even more jobs and more investment in Arkansas.”

On April 24, less than 10 days before the May elections for the Brownsville Navigation District, the port and OmniTrax announced that Big River Steel had signed an option to lease 800 acres for a potential plant.

Comments by port officials to the local daily brazenly asserted that Big River Steel had signed on the dotted line and agreed to come here. It came under the headline:

  Steel company selects local site

Image result for eddie campirano port of brownsville
"The development was reflected in a unanimous vote by the Brownsville Navigation District board, during a special meeting Tuesday, to give BRS the option to lease 800 acres between the Brownsville Ship Channel and S.H. 48 on which to build the facility. The BND is the port’s governing body.

“Now all the hard work begins,” said Eddie Campirano, port director and CEO. “This kind of sets the wheels in motion. There’s still a lot of work to be done. A project like this is not going to be easy.”

Still, “they want to be here,” Campirano said.

“They’ve made the decision,” he said. “We have an agreement in hand that says Brownsville’s the place where we’re going to make it happen.”

Well, we guess it didn't really mean that, did it? But it sure sounded nice. Now there is even some cynical talk that the announcement was made by the port commissioners against the wishes of the company who had requested that it be made after the elections.

"They told the commissioner they didn't want the announcement made before the May 5 elections because they didn't want to get involved in local politics," said a source close to the commission.

Nonetheless, then-Chairman John Wood, then seeking reelection against challenger Cesar Lopez,  made the public announcement June 24, he said. Wood won by 262 votes.

In the port's press release on the lease option for the 800 acres, Wood stated:

“The addition of 500 new full-time local jobs, and the impact of those jobs in terms of retail spending, services, and new housing impacts represent a transformational moment for Brownsville and the Valley,” Chairman Wood continued. Wood expects up to 1,500 construction workers would be needed to build the specialized steel plant."

So what was it? The Arkansas incentives, the Trump tariffs, OmniTrax ineptness and dishonesty, inadequate State of Texas incentives, the premature release of the lease option agreement, or all of the above?

BIG RIVER STEEL CHOOSE ARKANSAS, PORT OF B'VILLE OUT

“When Big River Steel chose Arkansas as the site of its new plant, it was the largest economic development project in the state’s history,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson. “Our state’s pro- business climate has led to the company deciding to expand here. That means even more jobs and more investment in Arkansas.”

Big River Steel Expanding Arkansas Flex Mill
$1.2 billion investment will double capacity of technology-based steel mill and recycling facility 

June 29, 2018 (Osceola, Arkansas) – Big River Steel announced today that it is expanding its LEED-certified, Arkansas-based scrap recycling and steel production facility. The expansion will double Big River Steel’s hot-rolled steel production capacity to 3.3 million tons annually.

In addition, the expansion will facilitate the company’s ability to produce even higher grades of electrical steel, demand for which is expected to increase with continued focus on energy efficiency and the increase in hybrid and electric vehicle sales.

“Our $1.2 billion expansion will further cement Big River Steel’s position as a global leader in terms of advanced manufacturing and environmental stewardship,” said Dave Stickler, Big River Steel’s chief executive officer.

“Announcing this investment less than 18 months after beginning operations is a testament to the hard work and great success of the men and women on our team.”

Engineering efforts are already underway with SMS group GmbH, the primary technology provider, and will continue throughout the summer months. Major construction activity will begin later this year and continue for approximately 24 months.

In addition to doubling its hot-rolled steel production and enhancing its electrical steel capability, Big River is also contemplating the installation of a next generation coating line focused on automotive applications. Such an installation may involve a steel industry partner.

With its entrepreneurial mindset, Big River Steel is also exploring opportunities to supply the market with grain-oriented steel products, either within this expansion phase or as a future endeavor. The news of Big River’s expansion was welcomed by Arkansas state officials who touted the opportunity to bring additional high-paying jobs and incremental investments to northeast Arkansas.

“When Big River Steel chose Arkansas as the site of its new plant, it was the largest economic development project in the state’s history,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson. “Our state’s pro- business climate has led to the company deciding to expand here. That means even more jobs and more investment in Arkansas.”

“Big River Steel continues to perform beyond expectations,” said Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston.

“Thanks to Big River Steel’s commitment to Arkansas coupled with our talented workforce, low cost of doing business and a pro-growth governor, this expansion further solidifies the state’s position as a leader in steel production and industrial manufacturing

MEXICO'S ANSWER TO U.S. TARIFFS TO IMPACT PORT OF B'VILLE

"When the Mexican economy sneezes, the Port of Brownsville catches pneumonia..."

By Juan Montoya

In the end, it really doesn't matter who is on the board of directors of the Brownsville Navigation District.

Or who is in the position of Port of Brownsville CEO or marketing director. Because of its geographic proximity to Mexico, it is the vagaries of the Mexican economy that direct its progress, and its declining fortunes as well.

This will become obvious as the effects of the trade war between the Donald J. Trump Administration and its southern neighbor become apparent.

Mexico is putting tariffs on imports of U.S. steel and farm products – including pork, cheese, apples and potatoes – as it hits back at the U.S. for the Trump administration's tariffs on steel and aluminum products from Mexico, Canada and the European Union.

Signed by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, the decree also suspends the country's preferential tariff treatment of the U.S. It was published in Mexico's official gazette soon after Trump announced his tariffs.

The list of U.S. agricultural products, nearly all of which will be subject to taxes of 15 percent to 25 percent, includes Tennessee or bourbon whiskey and cranberries.

Image result for rolled steel on trucks from port of  brownsvilleBut more important to the port of Brownsville, the U.S. steel products on the list include steel plates, bars and rods, along with rolled steel.

In fact, the shipment and transshipment of steel products have been hailed by port boosters as one of the resurgent categories after lows in 2010 and 2013 that have lifted the port's fortunes in the past few years.

The port receives steel from all over the world. The steel is trucked to Mexico to be turned into washers, dryers, cars and the like. The Port of Brownsville is among the top three ports in the country for steel imports and exports, behind only Houston and New Orleans.

Nearly one-quarter of the port’s total volumes comprise steel products, which have remained fairly consistent over the same time period. In 2016, the port moved more than 2.15 million tons of slabs, plus 260,000 tons of cold-rolled coil, 36,000 tons of hot-rolled coil and 117,000 tons of scrap.



Now, with Mexico's tariffs on U.S. steel of 25 percent and 15 percent on transshipped foreign steel to Mexico, this golden goose may prove to be a bane on the sunshine predictions for the port's fortunes. Currently, the port transships more steel into Mexico than any other U.S. port.

And will these tariffs affect the coming of the potential coming of the $1.6 billion Big River Steel plant, which was attracted to come here because of the Mexican market. The projections of 600 jobs at $75,000 each that were to come to the port might be severely impacted – if not destroyed altogether – by the US-Mexico trade war.

In an interview in 2015, the port's CEO Eddie Campirano said much of the waterborne cargo increase was due to the growing demand for steel on the part of Mexico’s burgeoning manufacturing sector, with the port handling much of that steel, and growing consumer demand in the United States, he said.

“People are buying more refrigerators and washers and dryers,” Campirano said. “Well guess what? A lot of that comes from Mexico, crosses at Laredo and goes into the stores.”

Plus, automobile manufacturing is a “huge deal,” he said.

“Just about everybody in the automobile industry who’s anybody is there,” Campirano said. “My understanding is that there’s going to be something like seven to nine new facilities coming online between this year and 2017. I think Mexico already produces more cars than all of Europe combined, and that one of every four cars (soon) will be built in Mexico.”

The impact on the shipbreakers at the port who ship the bulk of their scrap steel to Mexico will also be severely impacted, with scrap being considered U.S. steel and a 25 percent tariff will be applied at the border.

Feeling a chill already?

RECALLING SUPER'S ROLE IN RING FIASCO NOT DEFENDING HER

"10:51 have you ever even spoken to Dr. (Esperanza) Z(endejas) or even know her? I agree with 3:24 because I have made an effort to check out things for myself and not depend on chisme. Why don't you list what she has done that's corrupt and quit blaming her for the ring fiasco that fell on the shoulders of the principal and coach at that time. What happened to them? She came in and fixed the situation with the ring company and unless that is absolutely corrupt, than shut your mouth. "

By Juan Montoya

Image result for esperanza zendejasAs much as the commenter above tries to absolve Brownsville Independent School District Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas from the antics of her board and general counsel, bringing up the rings that were purchased for the Porter High School Soccer championship team is definitely not the way to do it.

In that case, the Porter team had just won their championship April 16, 2016, a year after River had won theirs. Rivera bought their championship rings from Herrf Jones, a subsidiary of Varsity Sports. 

Image result for herff jones invoice, rrunrrun
Zendejas – five days after Porter had won – emailed Jostens, a Herrf Jones competitor, that the district had already decided which vendor they were going to choose. She did so in an email that she sent to Josten's representative Jim Ramirez where she said she "had spoken to the principal..and athletic coordinator" and that they (including Zendejas) had been "in discussion" with the company that assisted Rivera with their championship rings.


Image result for herff jones invoice, rrunrrunHowever, there was no purchase order issued to buy the rings since the school did not have a budget line item with which to do it. That was in April.

The Herrf Jones' representative, after not receiving his $31,035 payment for the rings, sent the Porter principal the invoice in June. The principal then sent the invoice to the administration asking who would pay for the rings since he did not have the money in his budget.

After questions arose in the community on who had ordered the rings, it set off a flurry of activity which resulted in  Lead Auditor Arvin Tucker being assigned to conduct an investigation and issue a report on the purchase.

The $31,025 transaction involved the ordering of the 28 $895 rings each for the players and $995 rings each for other non-players on April 2016. Tucker's report was issued December 12.

Among the rings for the non-players were included two extra as "volume discount," one for Zendejas and another for trustee Joe Rodriguez.

Why Rodriguez? Could it be because he is registered with the BISD as vendor for BSN Sports, the sports-equipment company that does business with the BISD? BSN is a sister company of Herrf Jones under the Varsity Sports umbrella. He should not have been discussed, much less voted on the Anillogate matter. But he did and no one uttered a word of protest.

Superintendent Zendejas didn't tell Auditor Tucker she had responded to an email by the ring maker's competitor telling them that she and the Porter principal and athletic coordinator had already chosen Herrf Jones to purchase the rings. So Tucker didn't probe too deeply into the subject and his report indicated no one knew anything about the rings.

Remember, the $31,025 transaction happened on April 2016 and the invoice was sent June 9.


After word got out of Tucker's "investigation," the Herf Jones representative said he was willing to make a $25,020 "donation" to the 28 students and Tucker said Zendejas "wasn't planning to bring it to the board." Tucker stated in his report that she had "negotiated" for Herrf Jones to donate the student rings for $25,020 and that the non-players would be required to pay for their own.

Yet, for three straight meetings in early 2017, Zandejas, Rodriguez, and the others involved in purchasing the rings denied they knew who had ordered them. The board then lowered the river instead of raising the bridge and "fixed" the problem in March 2017 by raising the cap on purchases the superintendent could make without board approval from $25,000 to $50,000.

And yet the commenter defending Zendejas for not being corrupt claims she "fixed" the situation after it "fell on her shoulders?"

Thursday, July 5, 2018

CHANNEL 5'S RICK DIAZ: IT'S NOT CALVARY, IT'S CAVALRY


(Ed.s Note: On today's "Con Mi Gente," section by Rick Diaz on Channel 5 he featured the dedication of a prayer garden in Port Isabel's Lady of the Sea Catholic Church, he totally ignored pointing out that the church had made the common mistake of confusing the words "calvary" and "cavalry."

Writing explained.org explains it this way: "These two words are wholly unrelated, but they often get confused. Calvary is a proper noun that refers to the hillside on which Jesus was crucified. Cavalry is a group of highly mobile army troops."

As can readily be seen, the plaque refers to the horse-mounted Oblates but uses the word that refers to the hill.

Since it involves a church, it's understandable that ,"calvary" which refers to the hill where Christ was crucified would take precedence in the minds of the clergy and parishioners. 
Image result for oblates memorial dedicated in port isabel

The color painting of the Cavalry of Christ was painted from a black-and-white photograph of the priests by Harlingen artist Angel Hernandez. Diaz should have known better.)

MYSTERIOUS SHAKE-UP AT COB HUMAN RESOURCES, TRAFFIC

Special to El Rrun-Rrun
Various Sources

Jittery City of Brownsville employees in the Human Resources and Traffic departments are mystified at the sudden departure (and arrival in Traffic, of former HR director Oscar Salinas an the transfer (or possible three-day suspension) of his assistant Jossue Perez.

Salinas' apparent "transfer" took place over the July Fourth holiday. 

Salinas being sent to Traffic, the Siberia of orange traffic cones, has triggered widespread speculation on the possible cause for the administrative moves. Salinas was sent to Traffic despite a noticeable lack of Traffic background. He will keep his salary of $86,141 while former director Robert Esparza was making $72,627.)

(Since we first posted this, we have received further details of the shake-up. According to one source: "Oscar Salinas was not sent to Traffic to be the Traffic Director. Mr. Carlos Lastra, Engineering Director was given Robert Esparza's duties and was rewarded with a raise. Oscar Salinas will be in traffic as an assistant to Dale Levsen, Traffic Lights Superintendent.)  


The HR department figured prominently in the demotion and eventual firing of former Fire Department Chief Carlos Elizondo. His assistant fire chief Ernie Estrada had to be rehired after the 180-day limit passed and no charges had been filed against him as required under civil service rules. Estrada returned to the ranks as a basic firefighter.

However, absent confirmation for the apparent shake-up at the city, it's anyone's guess what triggered the administration's moves.

BISD'S BALTAZAR SALAZAR'S PAWPRINTS ALL OVER T.E.C. VIOLATIONS; FINDS FOR PRESAS-GARCIA, FINES PAC $1,500

By Juan Montoya

The Texas Ethics Commission has found that the Brownsville Taxpayers Political Action Committee formed to defeat former Brownsville Independent School District trustee Catalina Presas-Garcia deliberately violated the Texas Election Code in at least two instances and fined its treasurer $1,500.

The final resolution on TEC SC-3170479 was issued to PAC treasurer Juan Flores Fermin June 29.

Image result for caty presas garciaBut if one reads between the lines, BISD general counsel Baltazar Salazar's prints are all over the creation and the funding of the PAC even though he – and the person listed as treasurer – claims he was not member.

Salazar was listed on the PAC's reports as the only donor to the PAC making in-kind contributions totaling $13,200 in the form of payments to Brownsville advertising and marketing firm Breeden/McCumber. The TEC also noted that all the invoices were billed directly to Salazar.

The Brownsville Taxpayers PAC filed a treasurer appointment on November 26, 2016 listing Leal as its treasurer, and listed an address of 925 N. Iowa in its 30-day pre-election report covering the period from Sept. 22 to Sept. 29.

The address was for a vacant lot up for sale. The commission found that the Cameron County Appraisal District listed the owner as Marser Corporation. During that period at issue, the property was being offered for sale by Marser Corp. through the company Liz Realty, which is owned by Liz Vera, Salazar's sister.

Leal changed the PAC's address in the eight-day pre-election report to 9574 Ravensworth, in Houston. The commission's findings indicate that Harris County Appraisal District records list the owner of the property as Maria and Baltazar Salazar.

Leal initially denied the allegation regarding providing false addresses. Later, in response to written questions, he stated that the Brownsville address he had disclosed in the 30-day election report was an "inadvertent error" and that "the address has been used on the same computer writing the report and it was mistakenly left on the digital page by mistake."
Image result for baltazar salazar contributions to BISD candidates
He also claimed that the Houston address the PAC disclosed on the eight-day pre-election report was the address the committee was going to use for mailing and business but that it was unable to get local utilities under the PAC's name. An amended campaign treasurer appointment Nov. 8. 2016, the day of the election, listed Leal's address as 3740 Glenmont in Ft. Worth.

The other violation of the Texas Election Code was the PAC's failure to identify in both pre-election reports the candidates supported and opposed and the officeholders assisted. In one report, the PAC disclosed that the committee supported three candidates and opposed one candidate, all of who were running for the BISD board of trustees against Presas-Garcia. The candidates who filed for the Place 5 position were 1. Laura Perez-Reyes, 2. Erasmo Castro, 3. Elia Cornejo Lopez, 4. Caty Presas-Garcia (incumbent), 5. Laura Castro.

Perez-Reyes ended up being the eventual winner, and was the recipient of two separate $2,00 campaign donations by Salazar in her race against Presas-Garcia.

In that eight-day pre-election report, the PAC disclosed that it accepted in-kind contributions totaling $13,200.42 from only one contributor, Baltazar Salazar, for web design, legal services, and political advertising mailers. The commission found that communications from the committee directly opposed only one candidate (Presas-Garcia) and that there was no evidence to show that it actively or directly supported the other three it listed.

The TEC did not find that the PAC did not disclose all political contributions accepted and political expenditures made by the committee. However, since the only contributions were from Baltazar in the form of in-kind expenditures, it found that the committee had not violated this this third part of the complaint.

When Salazar was hired by a majority of the district, Presas-Garcia and Lucy Longoria were the only members of the board who voted against him. They said his firm has scored the lowest of all 17 firms handing in responses to the BISD's Request for Legal Services. Later, Salazar accused Presas-GArcia in open meeting alleging that she had made sexual advances to him in the parking lot of the BISD's main office.

He later tried to submit an agenda item to the board to censure her and possibly remove her from the board. The board refused to consider the motion.

When Salazar applied for the board he admitted in his application that he had been convicted of three felonies of theft by check but that the convictions had been "set aside" by the court. When he tried to expunge the convictions, the Texas Department of Public Safety objected to the expungement and the expungement was reversed. The majority of the board – over Presas-Garcia and Longoria's objections – hired him nonetheless.
https://law.justia.com/cases/texas/thirteenth-court-of-appeals/2013/13-12-00771-cv.html

To date, those three felony convictions remain on the record.

The BISD is currently paying Salazar more than $280,000 in salary. 

rita