Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is Steve Ortega Holding Office Improperly?

Is Steve Ortega Holding Office Improperly? 
Comparisons to Socorro Corruption

El Paso has Single Member District Representation, which requires City Representatives to reside full time in the District voters elected them to represent for their entire term in office.


Recently blogger David K publically disclosed on his blog, what apparently many people already knew that Steve Ortega moved out of District 7 into District 1 with his spouse near the Kern area quite some time ago – apparently around September 2012.


Ortega has an apartment address in District 7 and questions have arisen whether he is using that address to game the system to stay in office?


Why should you care? There are many reasons here are 3:


  1. An elected official should never be allowed to circumvent laws or regulations. Otherwise, isn’t that basically the definition of corruption?


  1. A representative holding office improperly, such as by not living in the District they were elected to represent, has serious implications for contracts, financial decisions, and close votes.  Votes may be invalid, including those votes to authorize debt, expenditures, and enter into contracts.


How much debt and expenditures have been authorized? How many contracts has the City Council voted upon?


  1. Single-Member District Representation was put in place because of El Paso’s long history of discrimination. Allowing circumvention defeats protective measures, and representative government for all 80,000+ District 7 residents.


Misinformed? Indifferent to District 7 Residents? Covering for Ortega?


Members of the public reported to DIEP that they have reported questioning local newspapers and local TV news about the lack of reporting holding Ortega accountable. A few members in the media are apparently aware that Ortega allegedly moved out of District 7 and lives in District 1.


The local media gave several responses to the public and these responses have given rise to allegations of a cover up. The same problem occurred a few years ago in the removal of a District 8 Representative so why not report now? The responses reported were disturbingly inaccurate including:


  1. During the year when the District boundaries are being redrawn, the regulations for representation of a District do not apply


  1. The City Attorney waived the residency requirement.


  1. Representatives only have to live in their District 6 months before running.


  1. A Representative does not have to live in their District for the last 6 months of their term.


What do the Authorities say?


DIEP called call the Texas Secretary of State’s Office and spoke to an attorney. Also, DIEP called the Department of Justice to ask of requirements of Single Member District Representation.


Here is a combined summary:


1. Single-Member District Representatives are required to live full time within their District boundaries to be eligible to run and if elected must reside full time within the District boundaries for their entire term.


2. If a representative moves out of the district that elected him/her to represent them, then the representative is required to resign immediately.


3. A City Attorney has no authority to waive Single Member District requirements.


4. The City Charter only further defines residency in a district as someone who has lived in the District full time for at least 6 months prior to running for the office.


5. The City Charter does not waive Single Member District requirements for continued full-time residence in the District for the entire term.


6. Single-member district regulations always apply regardless of redistricting.

Photo from "We the People of El Paso" Facebook site

The only exception is if a new approved redistricting map redraws boundaries such that the Representative’s current home is "drawn out" of their District during redistricting.


In this case, the representative is allowed to complete the remainder of their term if they continue to reside in their current precinct or should they choose, relocate back into the new district boundaries. 


A representative may not run for re-election for the district unless they move back into the new district boundaries.  If they chose not to relocate, then they may run for the office of the district they live in if th