Tuesday, April 25, 2017


By Juan Montoya
Amid indications that federal investigators had interviewed him and his former vice president on potential improprieties, Jason Hilts, the president and Chief Executive Officer at the Brownsville Economic Development Corporation has tendered his resignation effective this Friday, April 28.

Rumors abounded in municipal circles that FBI investigators had questioned Hilts and other BEDC officials, but no other details have been avaialble.

Hilts, a Michigan native, was named the city's top economic development guru with the City of Brownsville since 2002 even though he never was the top person of any organization, never worked at another economic development organization, only had some college courses under his belt, and by all accounts and purposes had limited formal training in economic development.

Newspaper reports at the time pointed out that the BEDC board awarded him an $80,000 annual salary coupled with benefits and a $500 monthly gas allowance. Additionally, Hilts had access to a BEDC credit card that he uses often for travel, meals and other expenses that he accounts for in many cases adding mostly up to more than $1,000 a month.

Lynn Puglisi, who Hilts eliminated from the BEDC in his reorganization, charged that Hilts was disciplined for making large personal purchases on BEDCs credit card such as jewelry and clothing when he was vice president of the BEDC years ago. Hilts acknowledges the actions and says they were a mistake, but denies he was reprimanded for the unapproved purchases after an audit was conducted of his finances.

The Brownsville Herald's Emma Perez-TreviƱo reported in Auguts 21, 2003, that: "When he was vice president in 1997 and 1998, the credit card facilitated the purchase of clothing from Mervyns in Los Angeles and Mission Viejo, Calif., slacks, shirts and men's coordinates from Dillards in Brownsville, more clothes from the Burlington Coat Factory in McAllen, a diamond ring from J.C. Penney in Brownsville, goods from Stein Mart in San Antonio, general merchandise and jewelry from Target in Brownsville, jewelry/repair/sales from Golden Time in Brownsville, and a $1,077.09 silver clock from the Jewel Gallery in Brownsville."

Nonetheless, he was made the BEDC CEO and allowed to court firms from within the United States and abroad. Not all were successful, as is evidenced by an empty north Brownsville Industrial Park and an abandoned Colombia office.

Take a gander at what Hilts "invested" there without any tangible results:

The BEDC January 2016 report on the Colombian economic mission which shows that in the two and one-half years of operating an office there, they spent $197,590 in salaries for three Colombian nationals and office costs, and another $116,000 in travel for BEDC, city, port, state and private individuals.

And while the report does not show that one job has been created for a Brownsville resident so far, Hilts asserted that their efforts so far at "developing relationships" has the "potential" of bringing at least 11 mid-size operations in different sectors with $25 million and 200 jobs and another $300 million from two major projects in food processing and retail which might create 450 jobs and another 300 indirect jobs here. Alas, Hilts won't be there to be held accountable when  nothing materilializes.

Here's the breakdown on the Colombian operation funded to the tune of $314,438 from July 2013 to date to January 2016.
Staff and salary: Director of Recruitment: $50,436 yearly
Office Assistant:                                         $6,600 yearly
Office Assistant:                                          $800 monthly

Total multiplied by 2.5 years:                     $197,590

July 15 to Sept. 13, 2013 Four Trips: (1.Medellin, 2.Bogota-Cali, 3.Bogota, 4. Barranquilla-Bogota,Medellin, Cali)
Fellow Travelers: City of Brownsville (Mayor Tony Martinez), BEDC staff, Port of Brownsville reps (Eddie Campirano, commissioners?, Office of the Governor of Economic Development, A Brownsville manufacturer(?), attorney (private?), labor consultant (?)
Why the Mayor? Hilts, in the December 8 workshop, stated: "In South America, a mayor is viewed like a governor or president. The meetings we set up are better attended if the mayor is with us."
Participants BEDC claims attended the "Invest in Brownsville Trade Mission": 375

(Note: in the report sent to El Rrun-Rrun, Hilts did not identify the individuals who were taken to Colombia at public expense other than by their organizations. For example, he did not mention the Port of Brownsville commissioners or administrators who went with the BEDC.)

Oct., 7, 2013 to June 18, 2014 Four Trips: (1.Bogota, 2. Bogota, Medellin, Cali, 3. Medellin, 4. Ipiales, Cucuta, Tunja, Medellin, Barranquilla, Pereira, Santa Maria)
Fellow Travelers: BEDC, Office of the Governor ED)
Participants BEDC claims attended the "Invest in Brownsville Trade Mission": 503

July 29, 2014 to August 16, 2014 Two Trips(1. Bogota, 2. Medellin, , Cali, Bogota, Cartagena)
Fellow Travelers: City of Brownsville (Martinez?, federal official (Filemon Vela?), Port of Brownsville (Eddie Campirano?),  Office of the Governor ED)
Participants BEDC claims attended the Invest in Brownsville Trade Mission: 193

Oct. 27 2014 to April 23, 2015 Two Trips: (1. Medellin, Bogota, 2. Medellin, Bogota
Fellow Travelers: BEDC staff only
Participants BEDC claims attended the Invest in Brownsville Trade Mission: 51

May 30 to Nov. 12, 2015 Three Trips: (1. Medellin, Bogota. 2. Medellin, Bogota. 3. Bogota, Cali)
Fellow Travelers: BEDC staff only
Participants BEDC claims attended the Invest in Brownsville Trade Mission: Not noted

Total Travel by BEDC, City of Brownsville, Office of the Gov., Port of Brownsville, Brownsville Manufacturer, lawyer, labor consultant:

(Hilts adds the caveat that: All travel is associated with meetings pertaining to prospective activity, trade missions, government officials, investor relations, entrepreneurs, port authorities and chambers of commerce. The face-to-face meetings with such representatives are derived through an internal lead generating process. In return, the meetings result in visits to Brownsville by prospective companies and participants for the inbound trade missions hosted in Brownsville.)

Results so far on our $314,438 investment in personnel, office and travel of our able representatives:
Jobs for local residents: 0, not counting Hilts and BEDC VP Gilbert Salinas
Jobs for Colombian nationals: 3

(Ed.'s Note: VP Salinas – also said to have been interviewed by the FBI – is now the Executive Director of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.)


Anonymous said...

So what???

Anonymous said...

This is not new, they been spending our tax dollars on pleasure trips that they call business for past years. A total investigate should be done, they will find a lot of things that were been done that will resulted with federal indictments. There are other officials that also have their hands dirty.

Anonymous said...

Just another reason to vote against incumbent city commissioners. Of course, Rose Gowen and John Villarreal don't want to be confronted with their opponents because they don't want these and other issues of waste, fraud and abuse to become well known to the public. Of course, the Brownsville Herald won't print anything on this, but continue their headlines announcing a $2500 grant to the Los Fresnos library.
The Herald will ignore the millions of tax dollars lost during the tenure of Mayor Tony Martinez, Rose Gowen and John Villarreal...the folks who provided oversight over the BEDC.

Anonymous said...

I think he has a mail order bride from Colombia? Maybe her relatives were employed by the city of Brownsville?

Anonymous said...

Sleazy pig.

Anonymous said...

I heard Hilts had a movida in Colombia

Anonymous said...

Villarreal you have a MBA ?
But you never use it

Anonymous said...

Are the rats scattering due to the Neece effect?

Anonymous said...

Pura pinches ratas de dos patas.

Anonymous said...

You mean he's passing out happy brownies?

Has anyone looked into the bullshit story of his kidnapping?

What a coincidence the media attention grabbing incident happens a few months before he runs for office. I guess he figured his name was buried under many layers of years, so he had to pull of a stunt to make himself relevant again.

Poor Brownsville, falling for that stupid bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Hilts isn't really jumping ship. He is being escourted off by the FBI.

Anonymous said...

Did you hear Gowen on KURV yesterday? They asked her about engineering contracts and her response was that the City Commission only hires the City Manager and City Attorney. Is she that out of it, that she doesn't realized that the Commission executes the engineering contracts, or was she stumbling because she thought that they were going to question why they always hire the same firm.

Anonymous said...

This guy bullshited his hole fking career and wasted millions of tax payers monies on pipe dreams and the city manager and commissioners are to blame.

Anonymous said...

Interesting choice of cities.