Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What Firth's Punt Means

City Attorney Sylvia Firth's actions on the ethics complain make zero sense. Actually, before I go on let me make something clear if you haven't figured it out yet - Judd Burgess is taking a page from Jim Tolbert's playbook. He's using an ethics complaint to get in the public eye to launch his bid for Tolbert's council seat. Maybe that isn't is ONLY reason for doing it, but its certainly part of it.

And that is how Tolbert got elected.

Which I have to admit, is pretty ironic and kinda brilliant. So the whole, "arrest me" and ethics complaint stuff should be seen from the lens of a guy who is running for office and free press goes a long way for a political candidate.

Kuddos to Burgess for doing more than just complain on social media, the guy went through the trouble of actually filing the ethics complaint. I questioned him as to why he didn't take it to the DA right away because he was alleging that council actually broke the law, but looks like it eventually got there.

In fact, its really smart when you consider the fact that Burgess has never voted in a city election according to records prior to his current effort to run for office. Here's a look at his voting record and as you can see, he votes in general elections pretty regularly but doesn't appear to have voted in any municipal elections in El Paso so far. Actually now that I think about it, doesn't look like he's voted in any school board elections either, except for the school board election and the quality of life bond elections that were held in November.

But hey, maybe recent events have inspired his participation in the process.

Anywho, Burgess appears to be okay with City Attorney Firth punting his ethics complaint to the District Attorney's office. But it leads to the question of why Firth has been acting the way she has during this ethics complain situation.

First let me ask the obvious, why did it take so long for her to come to this conclusion? And frankly, the bigger question for me is why in the blue hell was she not prepared last week if her intent was to punt? Media has been doing very exhaustive open records requests on the possible violation of the TOMA. Firth's office reviews those requests and compiles the relevant documents. So her office has most certainly gone over all the documents.

Why would it take so long to come to this weird conclusion of hers? To me the only answer can be because she has politicized this issue.

Why didn't she give the chair a heads up before the meeting that she wasn't prepared? Why did they have to wait to find out until the actual day of the meeting?

Burgess' ethics complaint is probably the most meaningful complaint to go before the ethics commission with the possible exception of the Romero complaint. Firth's reason for dropping the issue doesn't appear to make any sense.

What Firth's decision means is that the city ethics committee is not going to deal with the complaint. It isn't a finding of fact, which is what some people believe. What she is alleging, is that because the complaint is about something that may be a violation of the law, that the ethics commission shouldn't hear it because its effective above their pay grade.

That is a point of debate among some as to whether or not her interpretation passes the common sense test. So tonight we will see what happens with the ethics commission on this issue and what action they do, or do not, take.

Burgess' other ethics complaints are also very interesting. That complaint is the one that I think ultimately will have the biggest impact because there is going to be an outside counsel called in to review a complaint about the city attorney not using outside counsel.

Gotta appreciate the irony!

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