Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Ethics Complaint Lodged Against Diana Ramos

A complaint was filed with the city ethics commission yesterday against a candidate for District 4 that is supported by Congressman O'Rourke and a few other prominent people.

Ramos was a staffer for O'Rourke until sometime late last year. She moved in to District 4 less than a year ago, presumably to run for the District 4 seat.

Ramos is from another part of town and graduated from El Dorado High School. In a previous interview Ramos indicated that she has always maintained her permanent residency in El Paso, however it is not clear if that actually complies with the rules set forth in the city charter or the verbiage included on the candidate application form she signed.

Here is a link to the entire complaint document.

Frankly, its a pretty in-depth complaint and there is a lot of back-up for the complaint. It appears the biggest problem for Ramos is the application she filed to run for office. Here is the link to her application to file for office and I've included a screen shot of an important part of the document.

I highlighted in green a couple of points of interest. First near the top of the screen shot I highlighted the text that reads "length of continuous residence as of date application sworn". The operative parts to pay attention to are continuous and as of date application sworn.

Next I circled the amount of time she indicated. Which says 8 months.

And finally I underlined the date the document was signed.

I think this is where she might not be eligible to actually be a candidate based on the documents provided in the complaint. Also, I don't think the complainant actually caught this since he doesn't mention it.

Blas Hermosillo is the person who filed the complaint and he included several documents. Two of his documents are relevant to the application. He included a narrative of a conversation he allegedly had with the candidate at a forum. Here's a screen shot of the portion of that narrative that comes into play:

In the narrative he says he asked her how long she had lived in the district and she indicated last month, or October. Obviously that is just hearsay unless he has the text message he alludes to. But he does include another document that corroborates the October time frame. Its a screenshot of over voter registration change.

According to this document she just recently changed her voter registration and it lines up with the narrative provided.

I think everything will hinge on what the definition of "continuous" is with the city. You can maintain for residency in Texas for purposes of voting and such if you are an employee of a member of congress from your home state. But for purposes of eligibility, I'm not sure that is going to fly.

Based on the narrative and the voter registration document, it doesn't appear that Ramos was accurate when she stated she had lived in the territory elected from for 8 months as of date application sworn. The document also has a provision, right above the signature line that states that the applicant swears that the "foregoing statements included in my application are in all things true and correct."

At best, according to these documents, it looks like she only lived in the district 3 months as of the date application sworn. I think that would be enough to get her kicked off of a ballot.

To complicate matters for Ramos, Hermosillo included documents that show that Ramos actually voted by absentee ballot in the November election.

I also highlighted the address listed for Ramos. According to records from the Central Appraisal District's website, she nor her husband are the homeowners. So they probably rent, which is no big deal and certainly not the violation of any rules when it comes to running for office.

The owner of the property is listed as a woman named Vanessa Lara. Again, no problem with renting and running for office.

But there is an interesting issue if you look at the CAD record with the property owned by Vanessa Lara - and this is a problem for Lara not necessarily for Ramos per se.

Lara lists a Homestead Exemption. In order to do so, that property has to be your primary residence. So unless Ramos and her spouse live with Vanessa Lara in the same home, then Lara is improperly claiming a Homestead Exemption.

KVIA previously ran a story on this issue before the complaint was filed and they mention that Ramos checked with the Texas Ethics Commission on her residency before she filed. However, the requirements set forth in the City Charter are different than what the Texas Ethics Commission covers in terms of election eligibility. The TEC may have said she has enough eligibility in terms of time living in Texas because she worked for a member of congress from her home state. Ramos mentions in the interview always living in El Paso but the video never actually includes whether or not she lived in the district an adequate time to be eligible for this race.

I'm not sure what the status of the ethics complaint will ultimately be, but its not good for a candidate to have one hanging over their head while they are trying to get elected in a district they've only lived in for a few months.

I'm actually more surprised that her candidacy hasn't been challenged based on lack of residency.

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