Thursday, May 4, 2017


By Juan Montoya
At the joint meeting of the City of Brownsville Commission and the Public Utilities Board held Dec. 11, 2012, PUB general manager and CEO John Bruciak made his case for the utility to be allowed to get into the natural gas power generating business with private energy supplier Tenaska.

He also pushed for the PUB to be allowed to hike the prices for electricity, water and wastewater charges ratepayers. A pliant city commission gave him all he wanted and at the next meeting Dec. 17 passed both ordinances on the second reading of the ordinances.

The analysis of the PUB administration, said Bruciak, was that building the 800 MW plant was the only alternative for the utility to have a steady supply of electricity. Without it, there was the possibility of blackouts and of having manufacturers flee from the city or not come here at all. The plant's cost would be $500 million. PUB's share of the cost – $325 million, or over half – would guarantee it one-quarter of the electricity, or 200 MWs.

Over the next three years starting January of 2013 – a month after Bruciaks' push – electric rates have increased by 36 percent  from 2013 to 2016, water rates 20 percent  from 2013 to 2016, and waste water services 6 percent over over the first two years and will stay there indefinitely.

But that wasn't the only thing that went up. So did the salaries of the top three honchos of the PUB.

In fact, between 2013 to 2017, Bruciak's salary has increased by 109,169 from $184,059 to . The latest bump for the sage and prescient manager and CEO was a $59,009 raise from 2016's $235,019 to his current 2017 salary of $294,028. (See graphic, click to enlarge.)

All three men have enjoyed (or is it self-dealt?) incredible pay raises since ratepayers have been burdened by the higher utility rates. We understand that some city commissioners were unaware that the PUB administrators did not use the rate hikes to pay for the debt of the plant alone. They were told at the recent joint COB-PUB meeting where they were asked for an accounting of the estimated $90 million generated by the  higher rates that some of the money was also funnelled toward infrastructure improvements and into the PUB General Fund. In short, the higher rates paid for their salary raises.

Over the time (2013-2017) that the higher rates have been in effect, this has been the effect on the three men's salaries:
                                                 BRUCIAK: $109,069                                                 
SAENZ: $104,978
GARCIA: $94,994

And just this year alone, from 2016 to 2017, the three cashed in to get a raise that no other PUB staff or employees got.
BRUCIAK: $59,009
SANEZ: $54,975
GARCIA: $54,996
Can you try explaining these obscene enrichment at public expense to the old ladies and worried mothers who trudge to the PUB office after scraping enough money to honor the payment arrangements they made for extensions to pay their higher bills and rush to get in line on the last day to make sure their electricity and water isn't cut?

You won't see any photos of them anywhere because the PUB does not permit cameras or video to be filmed there. That's so in character because they have held the Memorandum of Understanding they made with Tenaska close to their vest and have refused to give anyone a copy to see just what they agreed to in our name.

And what about the dire predictions that construction of the plant was necessary to offset their predicted electric shortages? Their analysis wasn't just faulty. It was totally wrong. In fact, according to Fitch Ratings, there is a glut of more than 425 MWs of electricity in the grid, partly because at least three new natural-gas, electric generating plants have come online in South Texas since these overpaid sages looked into their misty crystal balls and made their Nostradamus-like predictions.

These are the folks who "represent you" and who approved these obscene raises for these utility "gurus."
Rafael E. Vela, Chair, Rafael S. Chacon, Vice-Chair, Martin C. Arambula, Secretary/Treasurer
Nurith Galonsky, Member
Edna Oceguera, Member
Armando Magallanes, Member
Antonio "Tony" Martinez, Ex-Officio Member

At the recent joint meeting of the two entities, PUB legal counsel (and Cameron County Judge) Eddie Treviño, said he didn't think that the PUB rates were too high and was reminded that not all the residents of the city made six-figure salaries like he and the three PUB honchos did. In fact, PUB – through hired legal guns from San Antonio – has run to the Texas Attorney General's Office to conceal how much Treviño's law firm is getting paid by PUB.

Even with these overwhelming evidence that those at the helm don't know what they're talking about, their plans were approved by the city commissioners at the time. Two of them – Rose Gowen and John Villarreal – are currently running for reelection.

Isn't it time to turn off the lights on these facilitators of the utility rape of PUB ratepayers?


Anonymous said...

And you missed adding the annual PUB income for their local attorney, Eddie Trevino?

Anonymous said...

What funk is going on here that is irresponsible and inappropriate amount of raises and who authorized this? Pub rates increased rates by 30% and gave themselves huge raises on the backs of pub rate payers disgrace.

Anonymous said...

So what????

Anonymous said...

Is about time for Gowen and Villarreal to go
Vote out people

Anonymous said...

Vote Eddie the fuck out too in 2018.

Anonymous said...

Again, all this bullshit is reflective of the arrogance of the Tony Martinez administration. How can these salaries be justified and who is responsible. Is there no oversight at P.U.B. or the city???????