Tuesday, July 18, 2017


By Juan Montoya
In 1997, when the Brownsville-Matamoros Bridge Company erected a new concrete, four-lane toll bridge adjacent to the original (old) bridge to handle automobile traffic, the late bridge manager Prax Orive was asked to say a few words.

Orive, who would die a few years later, was already infirm and his voice shook as he addressed the dignitaries gathered for the grand opening.
Pointing to federal judge Reynaldo Garza who was seated with other U.S. and Mexico dignitaries, he said he had risen to the position of manager because of the judge.

"I was fresh from the U.S. Marines and I had a wife and baby at home and I needed a job," he said. "I went to talk to judge Garza and he picked up the phone and told them that he was sending over a veteran who needed a job and I got it. If it hadn't been for the judge I wouldn't be where I am today."
Judge Garza was visibly chagrined that Orive had told that story but smiled wanly as the crowd clapped politely.

The way that Orive got the job at the bridge mirrors how hiring and firing was done in those days. Find someone with enough influence, get him to move a few palancas, and the job was yours.

To a degree, hiring at local governmental entities such as the Public utilities Board, the Brownsville Independent School District and even the City of Brownsville remains the same. If you have a relative or compadre already inside, te acomodan, or put in a good word for you with the boss.

Granted, the B and M Bridge was privately owned and personnel policies that apply in public service were niceties to them.
Now that Human Resource polices are in place in the city and county there are rules to follow to make sure that influence and compadrismo no longer guide public employment.

Cameron County, for example, consolidated the four county precincts from Road and Bridge to Public Works back in 2002 to remove the hiring and firings by individual commissioners and give everyone an equal chance at the jobs available.
They adopted the Civil Service for all county employees below supervisory rank in 2006.

As former county Pct. 2 commissioner John Wood wrote in a letter to the local daily, "The Commissioners Court adopted a Civil Service system that protects prospective county workers as well as those seeking advancement. These tests are administered without regard to whom you know; they are based on what you know, and hiring and promotions are to be based on those most qualified."

Yet, even as late as 2011, Pct. 2 county commissioner Ernie Hernandez was indicted and later resigned over his role in the "fixing" of the system to hire his brother in law Roberto Cadriel. Testimony in the trial of Hernandez's assistant Raul Salazar indicated that Cadriel had flunked the civil service exam twice before a HR staffer was told to take it for him and he passed.

We felt a little sorry (but just a little) for poor Ernie because we can only imagine the henpecking that his wife Norma gave him over getting her brother Robert a job. During the trial, Cadriel testified that it was Norma who filled out his application for employment since he could neither read nor write. To begin with, he was a convicted felon and couldn't be an armed security guard.

Later, it was disclosed at the trial that Salazar gave Cadriel the answers to a test for a noncommissioned security guard at a county international bridge. Cadriel – as well as Robert Lopez, the HR director at the time – resigned after the facts in the matter were revealed.

The Gilbert Hinojosa regime was probably the apex of political patronage. Hinojosa had a personal staff which included people with constituencies all around the county. Frances Domenski represented El Ranchito. "Silver" Garcia represented Combes, and Remi Garza – the son of  a popular doctor and lawyer mother – kept San Benito in the Hinojosa camp. The county taxpayers, of course, paid them hefty salaries to "assist" Gilbert.

The county has tried to wean itself from the past practices when the extended families of elected officials virtually filled the ranks of the various departments. The large extended family of Gonzalez (Aurora de la Garza's brothers) were present in just about all the departments from the sheriffs office, the constables and the DA's office. For a long time, Arturo was the longtime constable and his cantina in downtown Brownsville was a popular gathering spot for his supporters and political allies.

Will the compadrismo that prevailed in local governmental entities ever be eliminated? Probably not, but human resources officials now have some say so in separating the chaff from the wheat and recommending qualified candidates to important positions.


Anonymous said...

Rene Oliveira s behavior and ethics make Ernie Hernandez look like an honest priest

Anonymous said...

Rene Oliveira = Lobbyist Puppet

Anonymous said...

Eddie Hernandez at PUB. #1

Anonymous said...

If Ernie Hernandez runs against Rene Oliveira we will vite for Ernie before Oliveira.

Anonymous said...

You are either 2 things; maybe 3.

1. Ignorante
2. full of shit
3. whiner

I can tell this article is a waste of time just by reading the headline. Had you gone to a decent history class you would be familiar with the phrase "To the victor goes the spoils" or may you would be familiar with the Spoils System which began in the 1800's, more commonly known now days as the Political Machine. Not exclusive to Brownsville, it actually began in Washington DC.

Nothing new here - only Juan showing off his ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and isn't DA Saenz also related to Aurora de la Garza. Is this why there are so many "sealed indictments" in Cameron County? How and why is an indictment sealed and what happens to the grand jury who found enough evidence to indict - do they not question the follow through? The public
has been waiting for a so-called sealed indictment to be unsealed after it was reported on Channel 5 and even in this blog. It disappeared quickly.
Is that also how sealed indictment "se tiran a loco?"

Anonymous said...

Why is any of this "palanca" and "compadrismo" news of any sort. This is the soul and essence of Bownsville politics. Scrape away the layers of bull shit this is fundamental reason why corruption is rampant and we are the poverty and ignorance capitol of America.

This is our cultural DNA as Mexicans and it is destroying us and preventing us from taking our rightful place in society. Why do we continue to blame others for our situation? I have no expectation that we will ever take ownership of our own cultural sins. We will forever be doomed to live as people celebrating and wallowing in the culture that destroys us.