Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The "Moral Obligation" of Those Who Run for Office

From the editor:  I was just forwarded this part of the Election Code by Mary Helen Flores of CAVA.  It shows the moral obligation of candidates for office.   Once the candidate files and has a campaign treasurer, he or she receives a copy of this chapter of the election code along with a blank form.  If this code were actually followed, it would eliminate a lot of the negative campaigning and some of the voter fraud.  




TITLE 15. REGULATING POLITICAL FUNDS AND CAMPAIGNS
CHAPTER 258. FAIR CAMPAIGN PRACTICES
Sec. 258.001.  SHORT TITLE. This chapter may be cited as the Fair Campaign Practices Act.
Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 168, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.
Sec. 258.002.  PURPOSE. (a) The purpose of this chapter is to encourage every candidate and political committee to subscribe to the Code of Fair Campaign Practices.
(b)  It is the intent of the legislature that every candidate and political committee that subscribes to the Code of Fair Campaign Practices will follow the basic principles of decency, honesty, and fair play to encourage healthy competition and open discussion of issues and candidate qualifications and to discourage practices that cloud the issues or unfairly attack opponents.
Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 168, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.
Sec. 258.003.  DELIVERY OF COPY OF CODE. (a) When a candidate or political committee files its campaign treasurer appointment, the authority with whom the appointment is filed shall give the candidate or political committee a blank form of the Code of Fair Campaign Practices and a copy of this chapter.
(b)  The authority shall inform each candidate or political committee that the candidate or committee may subscribe to and file the code with the authority and that subscription to the code is voluntary.
Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 168, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.
Sec. 258.004.  TEXT OF CODE. The Code of Fair Campaign Practices reads as follows:
CODE OF FAIR CAMPAIGN PRACTICES
There are basic principles of decency, honesty, and fair play that every candidate and political committee in this state has a moral obligation to observe and uphold, in order that, after vigorously contested but fairly conducted campaigns, our citizens may exercise their constitutional rights to a free and untrammeled choice and the will of the people may be fully and clearly expressed on the issues.
THEREFORE:
(1)  I will conduct the campaign openly and publicly and limit attacks on my opponent to legitimate challenges to my opponent's record and stated positions on issues.
(2)  I will not use or permit the use of character defamation, whispering campaigns, libel, slander, or scurrilous attacks on any candidate or the candidate's personal or family life.
(3)  I will not use or permit any appeal to negative prejudice based on race, sex, religion, or national origin.
(4)  I will not use campaign material of any sort that misrepresents, distorts, or otherwise falsifies the facts, nor will I use malicious or unfounded accusations that aim at creating or exploiting doubts, without justification, as to the personal integrity or patriotism of my opponent.
(5)  I will not undertake or condone any dishonest or unethical practice that tends to corrupt or undermine our system of free elections or that hampers or prevents the full and free expression of the will of the voters, including any activity aimed at intimidating voters or discouraging them from voting.
(6)  I will defend and uphold the right of every qualified voter to full and equal participation in the electoral process, and will not engage in any activity aimed at intimidating voters or discouraging them from voting.
(7)  I will immediately and publicly repudiate methods and tactics that may come from others that I have pledged not to use or condone. I shall take firm action against any subordinate who violates any provision of this code or the laws governing elections.
I, the undersigned, candidate for election to public office in the State of Texas or campaign treasurer of a political committee, hereby voluntarily endorse, subscribe to, and solemnly pledge myself to conduct the campaign in accordance with the above principles and practices.
        ______________         ____________________
                  Date                    Signature
Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 168, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.
Sec. 258.005.  FORMS. The commission shall print copies of the Code of Fair Campaign Practices and shall supply the forms to the authorities with whom copies of the code may be filed in quantities and at times requested by the authorities.
Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 168, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.
Sec. 258.006.  ACCEPTANCE AND PRESERVATION OF COPIES. (a) An authority with whom a campaign treasurer appointment is filed shall accept each completed copy of the code submitted to the authority that is properly subscribed to by a candidate or the campaign treasurer of a political committee.
(b)  Each copy of the code accepted under this section shall be preserved by the authority with whom it is filed for the period prescribed for the filer's campaign treasurer appointment.
Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 168, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.
Sec. 258.007.  SUBSCRIPTION TO CODE VOLUNTARY. The subscription to the Code of Fair Campaign Practices by a candidate or a political committee is voluntary.




Is Unethical City Attorney Mark Sossi Retained Only Because He Is Tony's Lackey?

City Attorney Mark Sossi
In almost any city in the United States Mark Sossi would be terminated as city attorney based on his job performance, ethics and legal difficulties.  The City of Brownsville has a different standard by which it judges administrators.  Incompetence, malfeasance, ethical violations, negligence and sleazy dealing are overlooked as long as an administrator plays ball with those in charge.(Reportedly, Sossi backs Martinez in his recent unauthorized expenditures, claiming a legal loophole allowing contracts under $35,000 to be paid for without City Commission approval.)

Mark Sossi was simply not a good hire by the city in March of 2009.  His previous employer, the Willette & Guerra law firm, had proven in court that Sossi had pocketed $167,363 intended for the firm, while the Texas Workforce Commission found that he'd done the same thing with monies earmarked for unemployment benefits to the tune of $20,711.66.  It's no surprise that during his first year on the city payroll his license to practice law was revoked.

A clear violation of almost any ethics code ever written is for a city official to give city business to a previous employer.  Yet that is what was noted in a public comment at a city commission meeting by astute citizen Letty Perez-Garzoria, that the city had been giving some legal business to Sossi's old law firm Willette & Guerra, allegedly to help him pay off their judgment against him via some sort of "wink-wink" agreement.  Sossi's response was that he quickly urged then Mayor Pat Ahumada to block the broadcast of public comment.  Later, during Tony Martinez first year on the job, Commissioner Melissa Zamora placed the reinstatement of the broadcast of public comment on the on the agenda.  Here is the MMB report of the handling of that agenda item in an August 12. 2011 blog article:

Commissioner Melissa Zamora
"Melissa Hernandez-Zamora seemed dumbstruck when City Attorney Sossi stood up to give opposition testimony concerning the broadcast of public comment item she had placed on the agenda. It was obvious that Commissioner Zamora had not been advised of the behind-the-scenes manipulation by Mayor Martinez and his eager cohort Sossi. Sossi, afterall, had the most to lose from public comment broadcast since it was comments about his questionable ethics that triggered the ban in the first place. As Zamora got her bearings, Martinez waved Sossi the "go ahead". Sossi made no attempt in his feeble, highschoolish power point to express a legal opinion. There was no mention of free speech, the first amendment, the constitution or even the phony liability issues he has pretended previously. Those might have been worthy legal issues. Instead he expressed only viewpoints, unscientific at best, but most likely simply wrong. With a straight face he used a pie chart to illustrate the greater "diversity" of commenters since the ban, not even having the honesty to acknowledge that many of those new participants were speaking out against the anti-democratic ban. He also railed against grandstanding as he grandstanded."

What is odd is that while Sossi, retained by the city at a monthly fee of $10,000($120,000 per anum), found the volume of legal work of the city so overwhelming(despite two lawyers on the city payroll as assistants) that he had to refer some of it to his old law firm Willette & Guerra,  farm out ALL of the employment arbitration cases to Navarro & Ozuna, YET still found that he could contractually commit for services to the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation at a $5,000 per month retainer AND engage in private legal practice on the side. 

Sossi's private practice of law in Brownsville predictably proved disastrous with at least two legal malpractice law suits current.  Stell Middle School teacher Ingrid Gonzalez and her husband Roger sued Sossi for legal malpractice, claiming that he had conspired to defraud the couple by conspiring with a title company to take their property.  Oliveira Middle School teacher Jesus Abete, Jr. filed a legal malpractice suit against Sossi for allowing the statute of limitation to expire without filing a case to recover for personal injuries.  

Recently, the Internal Revenue Service joined in the legal piling on against Sossi, slapping him with a $100,000 tax lien for nonpayment.  Perhaps Sossi can summon up a pie chart to prove to I.R.S. auditors that the lien is a mistake or use Sossi-like circular reasoning to show that when one individual does not pay taxes, others actually pay MORE taxes.  

Perhaps, the new city commission to be elected this May will see fit to do something LONG overdue:  Fire City Attorney Mark Sossi!




Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Did City Manager Cabler Temporarily Block the Sossi-Martinez Rape of Brownsville Taxpayers?

City Manager Charlie Cabler
We learned today that Tony Martinez may very well have been thwarted in his effort to attend President Obama's inauguration on the Brownsville taxpayer dime.  Evidently, City Manager Charlie Cabler refused to pay the request for funds for both Martinez and City Commissioner Estela Vasquez-Chavez, despite pressure from City Attorney Mark Sossi to do just that.

We've also heard that Martinez is livid, wanting both City Manager Cabler and Chief Financial Officer Pete Gonzalez terminated for attempting to stifle Martinez reckless spending of Brownsville taxpayer dollars.

King Tony
Martinez was able, though, to get a city check written to cover an Austin firm's charges including airfare, hotels and meals for $28,000 to get recommendations that might entice UTB to consider staying downtown.  The mayor along with the City Commission also used Brownsville taxpayer money to speculatively purchase 3.5 millions in assorted properties in the downtown in the pie-in-the-sky hope that UTB or whatever it becomes would agree to locate one of its satellite campuses in the downtown.  Funny how the mayor does not give an excrement about Brownsville unless it somehow involves UTB.

Marco Longoria for City Commission District 4?

Marco Longoria, Candidate for City Commission District 4
With Supporters at Vermillion

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Who Can Tony Buy Now? As Per BWC: "Debbie Drops Out!"

Debbie Portillo
Tony Martinez may now have to scrample for a replacement plant to run for Position 3 in the City Commission.

According to Bobby Wightman-Cervantes, Debbie Portillo may have bowed out.

"Bertha Garza, VP IBC Bank and campaign treasurer for Debbie Portillo just informed me that because of time constraints related to her new business, Ms. Portillo is withdrawing from the race for city commissioner"

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gawd Damn Tony Martinez! Stop Stealing from Widows and Orphans!

Tony Martinez
Brownsville's tax dollars are gleaned from the poorest citizens of the United States.  Any so-called public servant who squanders those hard-earned dollars is an arrogant, worthless son-of-a-bitch.  He disrespects the elderly, the  feeble, those who struggle on minimum wage in a difficult economy.

The report in the El Rrun Rrun blog that Tony Martinez along with Commissioner Estela Chavez-Vasquez utilized either City of Brownsville or P.U.B. funds to attend the inauguration of Barack Obama, if true, demonstrates an obscene betrayal of public trust.

What the hell Tony?  What kind of arrogant opportunist are you?  Man up, son!  You have the personal funds to pay for such a trip.  What in God's name gives you the right to a free ride courtesy of this hardworking community?  You should be protecting the widows and orphans, not stealing from them!

Our Visit With New Election Administrator Chris Davis

From the editor:  We approached Chris Davis about an interview back on December 13. He suggested waiting until mid-January, once he got his bearings in his new job.  We finally set it up for January 23 @ 10:00 in the Elections Office.

Chris Davis








Chris Davis' perfect world would include a $2,000,000 grant to provide new electronic voting machines for  Cameron County AND implementation of picture I.D. voter registration.

Davis describes his first two weeks on the job as our new election administrator a definite "learning curve," and, for continuity and "to at least get through this first May election," has retained all ten of Roger Ortiz' staff including Assistant Administrator Norma Carillo.  "I didn't want an office being trained at the same time I was being brought up to speed."

As for Roger Ortiz being brought back as a consultant, that has to do with finishing some reports on  last May's elections the State of Texas continues to request.  The reports must be completed before the Elections office can receive funding for that election.  Roger Ortiz left office the first of January without that work having been performed.  Now, Ortiz has been deputized by the county to finish the work he should have done last May and is being paid $5,000 for his trouble.

Davis is not a total stranger to election arithmetic.  As a Republican poll watcher/advocate in the 2010 John Wood/Carlos Cascos race,  Davis went over the tally sheets with a fine tooth comb and noticed a section that had not been transferred to the summary sheet.  That evidence was then submitted to the Democratic side, who observed the error.  Davis says he was credited by some with "finding uncounted ballots," but that was not the case.  It was simply a clerical error uncovered.

Davis says that election judges have nearly the power of district judges, at least over their sphere of control.  He feels education to be critical.  With respect to taking a pro-active stance toward the handling of elderly voters in nursing facililities, Davis has already encountered some resistance.  He asked to tag along with county officials helping with hurricane preparedness and give a brief presentation on the Election Code and found that several facilities "pushed back" from having him give a presentation.  When asked if the Brownsville high rise for the elderly could legally do that, he indicated he would find out.

As for expediting the vote returns, Davis wants all of the ballots from the northern reaches of the county to be combined at the Harlingen Annex before being delivered to the election office by a sheriff's deputy.  The warehouse containing ballots, machines and supplies he wants moved closer to the election office.  As for now, he alone has the key to that office.

So, while Davis is aware of all of the local concerns about mail-in vote mismanagement, voter impersonation, coercion of the elderly, etc. and he received us warmly and graciously,  he knows he will be measured by how smoothly and accurately things go this May.  One thing he says he will not respond to is intimidation by party officials.  He cited some favorite line of his father to the effect that "all they can do is shave your head and send you back to Viet Nam" as an indication that outside pressure would not sway him.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Tony's Plant for Commissioner, District 3?

Debbie Portillo

Debbie Portillo, currently the Special Assistant to the Executive Director of United Brownsville is rumored to be Tony's handpicked successor to Melissa Zamora, who is leaving the commission to work as an information officer for District Attorney Luis Saenz.  

Martinez Continues Footloose and Fancy Free with Brownsville's Money

The Mayor Who Would
Be King
We made a serious mistake electing Tony Martinez as mayor.  He seems to confirm that on a daily basis.   His push for re-enforcement of the ban on broadcasting public comments in the City Commission meetings show his total disdain for what citizens think and feel.  His purposeless, week-long  "Senior Trip" to Barranqulla, Colombia shows he doesn't respect our hard-earned tax dollars.

And the bleeding continues. . . . . Mean Mister Brownsville received a tip that King Tony took it upon himself to hire an Austin consulting firm, B.C., Inc. (I should have a more complete name shortly) to facilitate UTB's location in the downtown area.  While preparing their report the firm's staff flitted between Austin and Brownsville, lived sort of "high on the hog" with regard to food and beverage expenses, finally submitting a nice $28,000 bill to the City of Brownsville for services rendered.

This may be the same bill that legendary blogger Bobby Wightman-Cervantes of the BROWNSVILLE VOICE referenced earlier in the week while describing the turmoil inside city government caused by Martinez lavish, wasteful, unapproved expenses:

"Sometimes I need two credible sources to tell me something before I will print the story. Apparently, Tony Martinez's plant to replace Melissa Zamora has agreed to vote to fire Charlie Cabler and Pete Gonzales. Apparently both of these men stand in the way of Tony Martinez's agenda of contract rigging and doing as he pleases. For the second time I have been told that Marc Sossi is on board with Tony Martinez. It may be time for a majority to call Marc Sossi into executive session and fire him over approving Tony Martinez approving all of these contracts or binding the city to contracts under $35,000. It is my understanding that Marc Sossi has told Charlie Cabler and Pete Gonzales that they must pay all commitments by Tony Martinez which are under $35,000. It is time the majority of this city commission take down Marc Sossie and Tony Martinez."

In a subsequent article Wightman-Cervantes mentions the $28,000 bill:


"Tony Martinez is currently being challenged over another $28,000 bill. He is convinced he can continue to spend as much of the city's money as he pleases without accountability so long as the sum of each individual bill is under $35,000. Until a city commissioner is willing to put it on the agenda for accountability - nothing will change."

There is nothing wrong with being an elitist, living in your own personal vacuum and calling in consultants to get an opinion.  The arrogant disrespect surfaces when this is done outside the framework of a City Commission.  If Charlie Cabler and Pete Gonzalez stood up to autocratic ways they should be commended, not fired.  Tony Martinez is the one who needs to lose his job.

To paraphrase John Lennon:

"You live with straights who tell you, you was king
Jump when your momma(Juliet) tell you anything

How do you sleep?
How do you sleep at night?"


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Solis and Others Detail Sleazy Rosenthal's Methods in Pre-Trial Hearing

Jim Solis
In a story published in BOTH the Valley Morning Star and the Brownsville Herald,  veteran reporter Emma Perez Trevino details the testimony of former Representative Jim Solis, now awaiting sentencing on his conviction of aiding and abetting extortion.  Solis was testifying in a pre-trial hearing before U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen to determine if Austin lawyer Marc Rosenthal was involved in a conspiracy in manipulating court cases to certain judges and paying for sworn, but false testimony.  Hanen agreed that he was.

Several juicy tidbits from the testimony will no doubt make their way into court house coffee shop conversation this week.

Solis testified to a proposal to get Elia Cornejo-Lopez arrested for something so corrupt judge Abel Limas could stay on the bench, where he could continue to be of service to Rosenthal.  Solis admitted to steering cases to Limas court.

"Solis also testified that at Rosenthal’s request, Limas, just before leaving office, had transferred several cases to another court he considered friendly, the 357th state District Court under Judge Leonel Alejandro." according to Ms. Perez Trevino.

Gilbert Benavides, a former Rosenthal employee, testified that Rosenthal needed an "eyewitness" to a train/car accident he was working and approached former County Commissioner Pete Benevides, Sr.  who suggested his stepson, Jesse Matta.  Rosenthat fed Matta the story that he was traveling south and suddenly felt the urge for a bowel movement.  He pulled off just in time to witness the train wreck.  Jesse Matta was paid $2,500 for reciting the fake account.  Matta is Gilbert Benavides' first cousin.

Gilbert Benavides also testified that he gave George Gavito $20,000 for his help on cases.

Jimmy Manrique
Convicted former judge Abel Limas also had some interesting comments, mentioning former County Sheriff Candidate Jimmy Manrrique.

Limas testified that Rosenthal wanted him to pay City Manager Charlie Cabler civil service officer Carlos Ayala $10,000 to ensure then police officer Jimmy Manrrique passed an exam for lieutenant, thinking that would smooth is ascent into the job of Chief of Police.

"Jimmy showed up and told me what he wanted also," Limas testified.  He did not know if Manrrique knew about the $10,000.  Manrrique told the Morning Star that he did not know anything about the money and did not go to Limas' office.  He declined further comment.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Juliet Garcia, Melissa Zamora, Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa No-Shows for Tony's UTB Fest

Tony Martinez
As I walked in the door at 4:39 PM, I flipped the tv to Time-Warner channel 17-12 to see if Tony's UTB Workshop was still in session. It appears I got home just in time as Tony was just starting his presentation.  Rose Gowen had been listed as one of the moderators but I suspect that designation was honorary.

UTB President Juliet Garcia was  expected to attend, but was called at the last minute to testify before a legislative caucus group.  Garcia is likely aware of how poorly she is regarded in Brownsville and Cameron County owing to a quarter century of egomania self-service.(Tony Martinez seems blissfully unaware of how his strong-armed, unilateral running of the city is perceived, seemingly living in a vacuum, but more on that later.)

In addition to Juliet Garcia getting cold feet, the gaping hole to Tony's right contained the empty chairs of Commissioners Melissa Zamora and Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa.  No alibi was given for their absences, although it's not difficult to guess.  The commissioners who did attend did not participate, except for Ricardo Longoria, who responded towards the end when Tony asked if the commissioners had any questions.  John Villarreal looked lost, Estela Chavez-Vasquez sullen and Rose Gowen, sporting a new, youthful hairdo, seemed sublime.

The dangled carrot in front of Brownsville, McAllen and Edinburg is the Permanent University Fund or P.U.F. The mineral rights, oil, grazing and other income producers on 2,100,000 acres of Texas land is earmarked for the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems.  If a UT or A&M affiliate school is connected to a non-A&M or UT school, they are ineligible for these funds which explains why UTB was never eligible.

Pastor Brad, a local minister who attends all City Commission meetings, and, more often than not blesses them, raised a pointed question:  "Why the snub?  With the millions Brownsville has given to UTB, the tremendous need in our area, why the snub?  Where was our congressional delegation?  Could they not have worked around or changed this technicality in some way?"  Martinez had no answer, except to say that he thought they had tried.

UTB Provost Dr. Alan F. J. Artibise
Tony yielded to UTB Provost Dr. Alan F.J. Artibise, a very smooth, assured speaker who gives the impression he could sell ice to the eskimos and likely has, considering his degrees come from the University of British Columbia and the University of Manitoba.

Artibise talked about various tracts of land the University of the Americas, Brownsville edition was considering.  He said the university currently owned 110 acres, but would likely need 300-400.  Martinez interjected more than once that his friend Abraham Galonsky who just sold the city the Casa del Nylon had 25 acres along Hwy 77-83 that he would "help" the university with.  Can Tony really be unaware of the furor  caused by his speculative real estate purchases with tax dollars?  It's difficult to imagine anyone with less political skill.  More than once it was emphasized that UT will be making a site selection in March.

At the end of the presentation, Mayor Martinez asked if the commissioners had any questions.  Ricardo Longoria, looking somewhat flabbergasted, paused and said:  "Well, it's difficult to formulate questions when this our first time hearing any of this," confirming what we all knew, that Tony has acted on his own in all of this.  Tony was unfazed, but Artibise, a bit sharper, tried to play it off.  "Well, I'm provost and I don't know the exact bidding figures and details of these properties."

Longoria was also concerned at the report that the administration for the new school would be in McAllen, not Brownsville, transferring 100 jobs there, especially considering all the millions Brownsville had already given to UTB and the bond indebtedness that stretches to 2034.   Artibise said, well, administration, yes, but Brownsville would have a fine campus with 20,000 students.


Friday, January 11, 2013

The Rose and Tony Show~Workshop for UTB Pitch January 15 @ 4:30 PM


Tony Martinez
Perhaps it is time for one man show Tony Martinez to finally give the taxpayers of Brownsville a glimpse at his master plan for downtown with a "presentation and discussion of the proposal submitted by the City of Brownsville for an Urban College Campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville."  The agenda for the workshop schedule January 15th at 4:30 PM at Brownsville City Hall also promises a tantalizing look at the "economic impact thereof."

Without any imput from the community or consensus building within the City Commission, Martinez has been buying speculative real estate like crazy in downtown Brownsville using taxpayer dollars.  Purchased properties include the Old National Guard Building near TSC, a nursing home, two side-by-side small locations with one housing a restaurant, the Casa del Nylon for 2.3 million and several others.

Rose Gowen
The workshop agenda lists Mayor Tony Martinez and Commissioner Rose Gowen as moderators for the forum.  The agenda printout ends with this disclaimer:

NOTE:  The City Commission of the City of Brownsville reserves the right to discuss any items in Executive Session whenever authorized under the Texas Open Meetings Act, Chapter 551, Title 5 of the Texas Government Code.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

City Commissioners~Just Say "No" to Tony Martinez!

King Tony The Lesser
When Mayor Tony fails to build consensus on an issue before trying to ramrod it through the city commission,  the commissioners do have a natural recourse.  Vote an automatic "no" on anything Martinez proposes that he did not at least run by the commissioners, ask for input or alternatives.  Do not reward an autocrat for going it alone.  Make him pay for disrespecting the Mayor/City Commission form of government and democratic principles.

As a commissioner, tell him your hands are tied with respect to supporting an agenda item you have not been consulted about, just on principle.  It's just like when the mayor cites a Robert's Rules of Order principle to prevent Commissioner Longoria or someone else from raising a question.(The mayor knows full well that a question can be raised at any point.  He is simply blocking dissent.)

In retrospect, whenever a mayor or potential mayoral candidate finances, manages or shares staff with commissioner candidate, it should give the voters pause.  They should realize that when a mayor controls a voting block, the city commission is a useless appendage.

The recent flurry of speculative real estate purchases orchestrated by the mayor should have raised serious questions within a properly balanced city commission.  Why do we need these buildings?  Why does the city need to own a building occupied by a restaurant?  What about liability if someone slips on the floor?  Why does the city need to own a nursing home facility?  Is this for profit or as some sort of social service?  Does the purchase of these buildings take precedence over unpaved streets, drainage issues and other city services?  If the city has extra money for real estate investment, what about the stock market or simply lowering taxes?  Was an independent appraisal done on the Casa del Nylon building before forking over $2,300,000 of taxpayer dollars to Tony's friend Abraham Galonsky, negotiated by Martinez' law partner Horacio Barrera.

John Villarreal should be able to go to his constituents in District 4 with an explanation of why these real estate purchases were made, just as Melissa Zamora in District 3 and Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa in District 2.  Otherwise, how are these citizens represented in city government?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Public Information Post with New DA Saenz May Have Been Melissa Zamora's Second Choice

Melissa Zamora
It's been obvious for some time that Commissioner Melissa Zamora did not intend to seek re-election for City Commission District 3 in the City of Brownsville.

"She's done!" we heard last summer along with a report that she would opt to run against the notoriously crooked Aurora de la Garza for District Clerk.

But, there were other rumblings that Melissa was after Bill Young's job as Public Information Officer for the city once he retires.  Several reported that Zamora has expressed an interest in that position feeling that she had the blessing of Brownsville's  Mayor Tony Martinez, who frequently does what he wants without regard to ethics or city code.

Of course, the Public Information Officer is not a mayoral appointment with applicants needing to be interviewed and approved by City Manager Charlie Cabler.  Reports indicate that Cabler was not on board with Melissa Zamora as Public Information Officer, feeling that she would be a public relations nightmare.  Zamora may have interpreted Cabler's coolness toward her hiring as evidence that the "mayor had turned against me," when in reality it was Cabler who was not enamored with the possible hire.

So, as things settled out, Zamora joins the administration of newly electing District Attorney Luis Saenz, even though, that may have not been her first choice of positions.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Another Indictment for Villalobos

Armando Villalobos
Emma Perez-Trevino of the much-maligned Brownsville Herald posted yet another indictment for our corrupt, former district attorney.



"A federal grand jury on Monday indicted former Cameron County District Attorney Armando R. Villalobos on a charge of fraud and perjury in connection with his 2006 federal income tax return.

Villalobos is charged with understating his and his wife’s gross income by about $155,625, and underpaying $45,981 in taxes.  The fraud and perjury charge carries a prison term of up to three years, a $100,000 fine or both upon conviction.  Villalobos is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan at 9 a.m. Jan. 16 for arraignment. Bail will be set at that time."




Friday, January 4, 2013

Trifecta of Stealing, Lying, Unethical Behavior Rewarded

Mean Mister Brownsville
From the editor:  Our previous article mentioned a "climate of corruption" existing in Brownsville.  That corruption not only permeates the county judicial system, but county government, BISD and the Port of Brownsville certainly hire and promote based on staying in family or in house, and the favors include not prosecuting the corruption that surfaces because it will touch the family of a politician or because any investigation will potentially embarrass others in control.  Brownsville and Cameron County not only suffers because proven crooks, thieves and liars still have access to funds and control, but because our region, one of the poorest in the United States,  could absolutely benefit by leadership with integrity, training and skills.  The followup story below cites three examples of corruption, deception and dishonesty not only unpunished, but rewarded in our community, doubtlessly contributing to our area's unhealthy, ugly aura.



Jason Hilts
Jason Hilts was hired by the City of Brownsville in March of 2002 as Economic Development Officer for a salary of $80,000, benefits and a $500 monthly gas allowance.  Despite the generous salary and benefits, Hilts betrayed our city's trust by using his BEDC credit card, charging thousands of dollars of personal items; clothing, jewelry, even a thousand dollar silver clock.

How were these thefts handled?  Hilts was internally "disciplined" and incredulously rewarded by being named the CEO of BEDC.  Perhaps, Hilts' education, skill set and job performance merited such thief coddling?  Hell no!  Hilts has no degree or background in economic development and his success in attracting new business or enhancing existing business has been zero, nada, zilch!  Not surprisingly for this incorrigibly corrupt town, Hilts has also been named to the 27 member United Brownsville panel.

Mark Sossi
Mark Sossi   has a resume' more appropriate for someone behind bars than serving as City Attorney.  His previous employer, the Willette & Guerra law firm had already proven in court that he had pocketed $167,363 intended for the firm, while the Texas Workforce Commission found that he had done the same thing with monies earmarked for unemployment benefits to the tune of $20,711.66. During his first year on the city payroll his license to practice law was revoked at least once.

Several citizens have sought the City Attorney to assist them with personal legal matters and paid dearly for their choice of representation including Rogelio and Ingrid Gonzalez, as detailed in Juan Montoya's El Rrun Rrun article published 6/21/2012:  "A Stell teacher and her husband say that city contract attorney Mark E. Sossi deliberately failed to prosecute their case which resulted in their losing their $39,800 property to a title company with which he was in cahoots and which then paid $10 for it at a foreclosure sale, selling it later for $20,000.The couple – Rogelio and Ingrid Gonzalez – originally sued Sossi for legal malpractice and now charge that he and Southern Texas Title Company of joining forces to defraud the couple and that Sossi kept them in the dark for years until they found out that their case had been dismissed for want of prosecution."

Oliveira Middle School teacher Jesus Abete, Jr., who initially hired Sossi to recover medical costs and receive payment for injuries in an auto accident, ended up suing for malpractice when Sossi mishandled his case. Here is a partial quote from the suit as published in El Rrun Rrun: "In the ensuing months, (Sossi) repeatedly lied to (Abete), and misrepresented the true facts of the underlying lawsuit to (him). The truth is that (Sossi) never filed suit on behalf of Abete, and by law, suit had to be filed before the statute of limitations expired. The statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident (January 2, 2009) Jan. 8, 2011. If the suit was not filed by then, (Abete's) rights would have been forever extinguished," the lawsuit states.
"(Sossi) failed to file (Abete's) suit," it continues. "Now that the statute of limitations has expired, (Abete) is forever barred from recovering damages for the serious personal injuries he suffered in the (crash)."

Adding to Sossi's problematic representation of local citizens and the judgement from his previous employer, we've now learned that Sossi has been issued a $100,000 tax lien by the I.R.S.  Oh, by the way, Sossi is on a $5,000 per month retainer to provide legal services for GBIC.

Enrique Escobedo
We will not precede the name of Enrique Escobedo with the title Doctor because he isn't one.  That may be confusing to thousands of BISD students and parents who may tune in to the broadcast of BISD board meetings because board president Enrique clearly uses that title on his nameplate.  Obviously, BISD students are taught that lying will help you to get ahead.  

Escobedo is no stranger to controversy. During the last election the Brownsville Herald exposed his claim to credentials as a doctor as fraudulent. Even after this exposure, Escobedo continued to print campaign materials, file campaign reports and publish a website, all of which referred to him as "Dr. Escobedo". Escobedo maintained that he received a medical doctor degree from Universidad del Noreste in Tampico, but the school denies that.  Escobedo was sanctioned by the Texas Ethics Commission.

Escobedo, a close friend of convicted R.I.C.O.  felon Carlos Quintanilla played a large part in the dismissal of the $14,300,000 lawsuit against Healthsmart, money the students could certainly have used.

Oh, by the way, the fake doctor is part of the 27 member panel of United Brownsville.




  

"That Which Is Crooked Cannot Be Made Straight"~The Climate of Corruption in Cameron County

With Armando Villalobos, Jim Solis, Abel Limas, Conrado Cantu, Ray Marchan already indicted or imprisoned, the announcement by the El Rrun Rrun blog that four more indictments were likely forthcoming from among Rene Oliveira, Eddie Trevino, Judge Elia Cornejo-Lopez, Judge Leonel Alejandro, Judge Arturo Nelson, Charles Willette and/or Judge David Sanchez indicates that likely corruption runs deep in Cameron County.

The preceding paragraph may be one of very few written in recent years about Cameron County corruption NOT mentioning Ernie, Norma or Erin Hernandez who have unethically used Brownsville and Cameron County as their personal ATM machines for two decades, presumptuously securing contracts with the city and county while depriving honest business men and women of that opportunity.  Preparation for two election fraud court trials produced substantial evidence of stolen elections using manipulation of mail-in ballots, harvesting of votes by politiqueras  from the nursing homes, day cares and elderly high rise and numerous other illegalities.

A prolific commenter on local blogs has coined or copied the word DUMBOCRATS to imply that the corruption is party-based.  A local educator is credited with the observation that "corruption is part of the Mexican culture."  Do you really think that political corruption is ethnic or limited to one political party?  Of course not!  By the way, local Republican County Judge Carlos Cascos, generally not associated with political corruption, admitted recently having used politiqueras to get elected.  Do you believe Cascos was not aware of the illegal nature of politiqueras in harvesting votes?  Those familiar with the antics of the original Mayor Daley of Chicago and his political machine would snicker at the concept that political corruption is a Mexican thing.

Sheriff Lucio
Bobby Wightman-Cervantes of the BROWNSVILLE VOICE blog claims that in a 2008 interview with affable, elderly County Sheriff Omar Lucio, the sheriff admitted to using politiqueras to get elected and re-elected.  The sheriff was quoted as saying that, although he did not pay the politiqueras for their services, he allowed them to fix tickets for relatives and associates.  In the recent Democratic primary, Sheriff Lucio, Abelardo Gomez and Carlos Masso had nearly identical mail-in votes.  When this was shown to outgoing Election Administrator Roger Ortiz, he admitted:  "The must have used the same politiquera or group of politiqueras."


                 Cameron County Democratic Primary~5/29/12


Name                                   Total Votes                %                           Mail-in Votes


                                                         COUNTY ATTORNEY

Carlos R. Masso                     8,072                        35.86                      192
Luis V. Saenz                          7,766                        34.50                        47
Maria Urbina De Ford             6,672                        29.64                        33

                                                               SHERIFF

Joe Cisneros                            6,107                        26.02                        55
Terry Vinson                            3,268                        13.92                        25
Omar Lucio                           14,096                         60.06                      191

                                                    CONSTABLE, PRECINCT 2

Juan S. Torres                         2,348                         27.45                        13
Roel Arreola                               893                            8.54                        7
Pete Avila, Jr.                          3,952                         37.78                        27
Abelardo "Abel" Gomez, Jr.     3,267                         31.23                      191



Mayor Tony Martinez
While refusing to believe the corruption in Cameron County is ethnic or party oriented, it is obviously pervasive, a culture, a way of doing business, operating.  Even politicos like Mayor Tony Martinez, not generally associated with political corruption, operate with total disregard for ethics or democratic principles.  Mayor Tony has been on an unencumbered free ride,  using taxpayer dollars to purchase  speculative real estate in downtown Brownsville without so much as a whimper from the citizenry or City Commission.  In one $2,300,000 deal Tony's law partner Horacio Barrera was allowed to represent the seller in a deal with the city for the purchase of the Casa del Nylon building.  And just think, Martinez is on a panel commissioned to create a new ethics code for Brownsville, along with City Manager Charlie Cabler and City Attorney Mark Sossi.  Ouch!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Looking Back At the $1,000,000 United Brownsville Comic Book

Banco District Development Plan

The illustration above is my favorite, fanciful, grandiose artist's conception of the 500 acres just beyond Mexico Blvd. referred to in the United Brownsville Comic Book as the "Banco District." The illustrated book of platitudes, directives and nebulous notions cost the taxpayers a million dollars, but now sits on dusty shelves, impractical, out-of-date and unfunded. The beautiful brick wall pictured above, wide enough for foot traffic with the occasional covered watchtower/barbeque gazebo for family outings would have been rendered useless by the border wall.

We are now in year 5 of the fictitious plan with the only thing real being the dollars siphoned off from the taxpayers by annual contributions of $25,000 each from P.U.B., the City of Brownsville, the Port of Brownsville, TSC, BEDC, GBIC, etc.  Mealy-mouthed IBC bank president Fred Rusteberg, his lackey Mayor Tony Martinez continue to push the concept while United Brownsville Executive Director Mike Gonzalez polishes his shoes for his annual hat-in-hand appearances before the entities begging for the subsidy to continued.  



A "resident population of 18,000" was foreseen for the Banco District with the UTB/TSC ITECC building being the anchor.  Multi-family units would overlook the Rio Grande with "middle and elementary schools sited for viability and vitality."  Not only would "office and dwelling windows afford splendid views of the Rio Grande", but they would constitute "an extremely cost effective crime deterrent design tactic."  Of course, the Ambiotec-produced funny book could not have foreseen the birds eye view residents and office workers would have had of Zeta/Gulf cartel battles with government forces.


The plan spoke of an esplanade(es·pla·nade ( s pl -näd , -n d ). n. A flat open stretch of pavement or grass, especially one designed as a promenade along a shore.) "as a linear park for strolling, jogging and bicycling that connect a series of raised parks and plazas along its circuit."   This walkway would not only provide a relaxing walk but would be part of a border security plan: "Defensive site and building design principles can further reinforce the security goals along the esplanade with secure place design, observable public spaces, creation of mutually supportive and overlapping viewsheds, and unobtrusive surveillance positioning."   All pure gobbledygook!

Perhaps, the dumbest idea of all is saved for the end of the "Banco District Development Plan," the idea of watering the landscape and replenishing the resacas with the condensation water from air-conditioning and roof runoff.  You can't make this stuff up!  "A design strategy for water conservation and water quality is to capture building A/C condensation and roof runoff for landscape irrigation along the esplanade and replenish the resacas; making for a sustainable symbiosis of urban and natural systems."

The plan featured graphs carefully noting an execution schedule for various plan features.  2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and now 2013 are mapped out.  Crossing Mexico Blvd. along Palm Blvd. I entered the Banco area recently to check the progress of the United Brownsville plan.  While observing lush, grassy fields, but no buildings, multi-story or single, no parks, or even an esplanade, three Border Patrol vehicle converged, one blocking my path in front, another behind. I rolled down my window:  "Am I breaking a law of some kind?"  I asked.  

"No sir.  You're fine.  We were just concerned about your safety."  the guard responded.  

I turned around and drove back into reality.





Tuesday, January 1, 2013

How Dan Sanchez Unwittingly Proved Himself Unfit for County Judge


Dan Sanchez, County Commissioner Who Wants
to be County Judge
When Dan Sanchez looks in the mirror, he sees a clever, ambitious man implementing a brilliant strategy to gain the county judgeship.  While other potential candidates wallow in indecision, Dan has been unabashedly pandering to longtime politicos Aurora de la Garza and Joe Rivera, hoping to use their reciprocated support as a springboard to the judgeship.

When a brouhaha developed, not only over naming a satellite county building after the long tenured, but mediocre clerks, De la Garza and Rivera, but adding a non-approved, but exhorbitant $2,500 portrait of the two to be hung in the building, Sanchez saw an opportunity for heroism, if not sainthood.  He offered to personally foot the bill for the portrait of the sleazy duo, sparing the taxpayers of the cost of the non-purchase order bill, but also hopefully ingratiating himself with the subjects of the inappropriate portrait.  A Dr. Robert Robles fundraiser spared Sanchez from writing a check to cover the cost of the portrait.

Ever the opportunist, Sanchez racked his brain for another covert way to show his devotion to the two clerks.  When it was mentioned that both Rivera and De la Garza had worked longer for the county than Tax Assessor Tony Yzaquirre, yet worked for a smaller salary, Sanchez snuck in an addendum to the commissioners court minutes authorizing a $2,000 raise for both clerks.  When Sanchez sneaky actions created an uproar, Dan offered to have the money deleted from his own salary, again illustrating his willingness to spend for support for his county judgeship run.

These two incidents alone prove that Dan Sanchez is NOT the person Cameron County needs as county judge.  In a county plagued by reciprocating personal favors, nepotism, job after job handed to the relatives of county officials, the LAST person Cameron County needs as county judge is someone openly pandering for support by putting money into the pockets of county officials.

When the time comes, Cameron County must say "NO" to Dan Sanchez for County Judge.