Fellow Taxpayers,

As a service to our community, we conducted extensive interviews with all three candidates for District Attorney: Bill Hicks, James Montoya, and Alma Trejo.

In addition, we invited each of the three candidates to watch the interviews of their two opponents and submit to us a rebuttal. Mr. Hicks and Mr. Montoya submitted rebuttals but Ms. Trejo declined.

We have posted the interviews and the two rebuttals below and invite the public to study the information we have provided so they can make an informed decision at the polls.

Democrats Montoya and Trejo will face off in the Primary Runoff Election of May 28, and the winner will face incumbent Republican Bill Hicks in the General Election of November 5.

We are not endorsing a candidate for this race or any judicial races.

Chief Instigator, El Paso Taxpayer Revolt


“Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the interviews of James Montoya and Retired Judge Alma Trejo.

1. The first thing I would like to address is the personnel issue as it was addressed to varying degrees by both candidates.  Since I took office in December of 2022, now just under 16 months ago, we have seen a total of 35 attorneys leave the office of the District Attorney.  At present, we are at 71 attorneys listed on our payroll, to include those attorneys paid under grant funding, those attorneys that office remotely and the regular attorneys in the office.  Of the 35 attorneys that have left my office, 6 have left El Paso entirely, moving to other cities outside of our community; 2 have retired; 3 were members of the Yvonne Rosales leadership team that were given the chance to relocate rather than being terminated with one of them retiring from the practice of law; 11 left with the primary reason for their departure that they found another job which paid more money (this includes 2 people that left El Paso); 4 people left my office to go to the County Attorney’s office because they wanted to work in a different atmosphere than criminal prosecution; 5 people left my office to go to the Public Defender’s office (I should note that of those that went to the Public Defender 2 gave the reason for their departure that they were unhappy working in the District Attorney’s office and were generally disgruntled with the DA management); 1 person left my office to go to the U.S. Attorney’s office and noted that she would be making more money for the federal prosecutor’s office; a total of 4 attorneys listed the primary reason for their departure from my office being that they were generally disgruntled with the management of my office, including the two that went to the PD’s office, however of those disgruntled former employees only one mentioned me in particular; 3 attorneys left for health reasons, either their own or the health of a close family member; we had one attorney leave but is coming back at the end of this month; and finally we saw the death of one of our prosecutors and he is counted in the 35 attorneys, although I will note that he was one of my biggest supporters and advocates for my campaign.

The County has not given me the resources to combat those that have left for more money.  When prosecutors come to me and let me know that they have been offered positions where their salaries are increased by 5, 10 or $15,000, the County does not have a structure in place that allows me to compete with that; further I would never stand in the way of an attorney advancing their career with an opportunity to find promotions and higher pay in the private sector or even in other prosecutors’ offices around the state.  We will certainly miss them, and wish they had not left, but it would be selfish to put our interests ahead of theirs.

Of those that have left and listed disgruntled reasons for their departure, I will not address them individually, but in general, the feeling was usually mutual, and I cannot think of a situation where anyone in our entire management team did not agree that the office was better off without that individual and continuing to try to deal with the drama that person surrounded themselves with.  I will note that some of those that left the office disgruntled mentioned that we were not allowing them to “work from home,” which is not true.  I have a policy wherein my attorneys can work up to two days from home if they can work that system out within their trial team.  It is important to note that most courts are having most of their hearings in-person now and therefore, my attorneys must be in the courthouse on any day that they have to be in court, which includes pre-trialing witnesses and being in trial.  Therefore, there are only a few trial teams that have been able to work out a system whereby they are able to spend one or two days working from home.  However, even in that situation there are production expectations for those working from home.  When a person “works from home” they must actually “work” from home, and not just use that as an added day off, which apparently became an issue for some people, and thus why we as managers and stewards of the people’s money were not too concerned about those people departing the office.

I would like to continue to focus on our hiring of new attorneys.  One of the newest attorneys to join our office left another District Attorney’s office that is now down, with her departure, over 58% of their attorney staff.  Shortages in attorney staffing is a state-wide problem and has been reported as being felt to varying degrees nationally.  I feel that our efforts to hire attorneys straight out of law school with our trips to various Texas law schools is going to continue to pay dividends well into the future.  Not only is it generating synergy in the form of some recently licensed lawyers that we have hired, but we will have over ten newly licensed attorneys working for the office starting in November of 2024 after they have worked in the office as unlicensed attorneys under the supervision of another attorney on a “Bar Card” for at least three months.  This will give us a leg up on almost all of the other District Attorney offices statewide and will go a longways towards alleviating the stress on our current line-attorneys.

I would like to address a few of the allegations that Mr. Montoya put forward in his interview specifically:

2. Our office on the second floor has implemented several security measures, with cameras being one of them as well as other security measures which are all designed to enhance and secure our employees and guests.  As Mr. Montoya questioned the cameras, I will limit my security response to that aspect, but know that there are other security measures in place as well.  In early 2023, I moved our Victim Advocates back to the original place that Mr. Esparza had them located, indeed had even built for them.  Ms. Rosales had moved the Victim Advocates out of that space and replaced them with our Investigator Corps.  Please understand that the District Attorney Investigators are licensed peace officers and ever since 9-11 have been instructed to always carry their firearms on their persons to provide an additional layer of security for DA personnel as well as for the courthouse in general.  With the investigators now housed back in the main part of the office and not just off of the lobby, as Ms. Rosales had them, I recognized that we needed to provide for additional security measures in the event that an incident might occur.  Just before and then shortly after the DA camera installation, we had a total of five security incidents occur in our lobby, one so severe that our DA receptionist had to push the “panic button” to call for EPSO emergency assistance.  Fortunately, in all five instances, our own investigators were able to respond to the incidents, deescalate the matter, and everyone was able to leave without anyone being arrested.  However, the important point for me, as District Attorney, as the person responsible for the safety of my staff and attorneys, is that it was our own investigators that handled the situation, NOT the Sheriff’s office, nor the courthouse security, despite the fact that the courthouse security operates their own security cameras on each floor.  We now have monitors for our cameras in each investigator’s common office area, in the two supervising investigators’ offices and in several of the top managers’ offices.  The cameras are used to note security issues, not to monitor the comings and goings of staff or attorneys, however it is easy to glance up and notice if something doesn’t look right at the reception area of if someone is lingering in a hallway.

3. It is true that on occasion, and NOT regularly, managers will walk around the office around 8:30-8:45 in the morning and again around 4:30 in the afternoon to simply see if attorneys are still in the office or if they have left early.  We are all public servants, which means that we are servants of the public. The taxpaying public pay our attorneys a pretty decent salary and expect that our attorneys will work something close to that 40-hour a work week for that taxpayer provided salary.  If we have anyone who is habitually coming in late or leaving early, it is incumbent on us as managers and public servants to inquire if the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth out of that attorney.  If they are working the equivalent of 40+ hours somehow, then their work will show it and no further inquiry is needed.  If they are not, then corrective measures will need to be taken.  It is not fair to everyone else that is working 40+ hours a week and devoting their time, energy, and efforts into being good public servants to have someone think that they can leave every day at 3:00 p.m. and just go to “happy hour” on the public’s dime.  (Note: members of the County Public Defender’s Office tried to entice some of my Assistant District Attorneys to come join the PD’s office by telling them that they were going to “happy hour” at 3:00 p.m. and if my ADA’s worked for the PD’s office they could go to “happy hour” instead of going back to the office after court.  I am proud of my attorneys that declined the offer of the PD’s office to cut out of work early for “happy hour.”) 

4. Mr. Montoya attacked my Chief of Staff, Mr. Rene Diaz.  First, Mr. Montoya took issue with Mr. Diaz on a personal basis stating that Mr. Diaz has a criminal history and Mr. Montoya did not think it appropriate that I have such a person working in the District Attorney’s office.  To that, I strongly question whether or not Mr. Montoya has the necessary judgment to hold the office of District Attorney if he cannot discern when it is and when it is not appropriate to give a person a second chance.  As District Attorney, you have to know when to bring the full weight of the criminal justice system down on someone, but more importantly, you have to know when to give a person that second chance to be a good, productive member of society.  Mr. Montoya, there are several people working in the District Attorney’s office, from staff to investigators to attorneys who have had “run-ins” with the law.  None of them have convictions, including Mr. Diaz.  All of the charges against Mr. Diaz were dropped and dismissed.  Each of the people that now work for the DA and have had some brush with the law in their past are better people after that experience.  Each of them now has a better understanding of what it means when the Code defines our duty as having to see that JUSTICE is done, NOT to seek convictions.  Each one of these people respect the incredible power of the District Attorney’s office and each one of these people make incredible public servants bent on seeking JUSTICE for our community.  As a 26-year practicing attorney, as a former District Court Judge, as a former state and federal prosecutor, and now as the District Attorney, I understand when it is appropriate to give a second chance and when it is not appropriate.  Specifically with regards to Mr. Diaz, it was appropriate to give him a second chance.

5. Mr. Montoya took issue with the position of Chief of Staff in general.  The position of “Chief of Staff” has become a common place position in all of the large DA offices and now is becoming common place in the medium size DA offices.  Managing an office of 220 people, 92 attorneys (if fully staffed), and 128 staff members (fully staffed), is more than a full-time job for any one person.  The reality is that when you are responsible for the HR issues, the promotion / discipline and hiring / firing of over 200 people it takes a staff of managers and supervisors to adequately manage an office that size.  The structure in my administration is this: Obviously the District Attorney is the head of the office, or the “President of the company.”  The First Assistant is the “First Vice President of the company” and stands in for me in the event of my absence.  In the meantime, he manages the day-to-day operation of the attorneys in the office.  The Chief of Staff is the “Second Vice President of the company” and is responsible for managing the remaining non-lawyer staff in the office.  Contrary to Mr. Montoya’s assertion, the Chief of Staff does NOT have any direct supervision over any attorneys and does not do any docket/case management.  However, there may be an occasion when the Chief of Staff, or even my Administrative Assistant, will be working under my direct orders to tell an attorney to do some specific thing, however that would be limited and again under my direct orders as in, “The District Attorney wants you to do X.”  It is also a great value to the staff that now they have a direct voice, through the Chief of Staff, to not just the Leadership Team Meetings, but the Executive Team (1st Assistant, Chief of Staff, and DA) meetings.  The Staff are now represented at every high-level meeting where they have never had that kind of voice in the management of the office.

6. I want to expand on what Mr. Diaz has brought to the role of the Chief of Staff: Mr. Diaz has implemented weekly management meetings for the supervisors in the office, which was NEVER done before under any prior DA administration.  Now, the right hand knows what the left hand is doing and why.  Supervisors from every department are able to share what they are doing, what problems they are facing, what suggestions they have to improve operations, and where they are seeing opportunities for improvement in the office in general.  Mr. Diaz has empowered the staff supervisors in a way that has never been done before in the DA’s office.  Mr. Diaz has also implemented standard HR discipline measures which are now consistent with County policy and procedures, a measure which was “hit or miss” under previous administrations.  Mr. Diaz has implemented open door policies where staff and attorneys alike are comfortable expressing their concerns and issues to their own supervisors as well as directly to him.  Mr. Diaz has implemented many standard management techniques which have been lacking in an office which has always been run by attorneys who have no training nor education in business management.  He has proven himself a great value to El Paso County and to our taxpayers. 

7. Mr. Montoya and retired Judge Trejo both mention the backlog of cases and how that backlog has transitioned to the courts.  I want to clarify this point.  When I took office, there was a backlog of approximately 14,000 cases where law enforcement had presented the case to the District Attorney’s office, but no one from our office had reviewed the case for prosecution (screened the case).  In other words, the cases were just lingering in a “cloud” lost to the world of the criminal justice system.  Over the past 16 months, under my direction, and with my leadership, Jennifer Vandenbosch, the Division Chief of Intake that I brought back to head that department along with several key hires in the staff, Lizette among them, have brought that number down to approximately 1,000 cases in the “Intake Backlog” of cases which have not been reviewed for prosecution.  The 13,000 cases that were in the “Intake Backlog” were screened and some of them were filed.  Under my guidance, we were much more discriminating in the filing of these older cases than we are on current new cases.  Therefore, although our usual “decline rate” is approximately 30%, meaning that we only file approximately 70% of the cases that are presented to us, on the cases in the “Intake Backlog,” we only filed approximately 55% of the cases from that backlog.  Now, during the same 16-month period, our office was filing current or “new” cases along the same lines as our regular screening procedures, although with a slightly higher decline rate so that of the new or current cases, we were filing at approximately 65-68%.  Nevertheless, ultimately the end result is that we now have a gluttony of cases in the trial courts, certainly more than they were used to seeing under the two years of the Yvonne Rosales administration.  So, while both Mr. Montoya and retired Judge Trejo are correct in saying that there now exists a backlog of cases in the court system after the DA’s office dealt with the “Intake Backlog”, I believe that it is fair to understand that we did not simply take the 14,000 cases that were pending and pass that same number on through the “system” and into the courts.  I cannot tell you how much the court system is backlogged because each court runs differently, and each court has different numbers with some courts being very backlogged and some courts only having a minor backlog.  Thanks in large part to the work of retired Judge Trejo when she was the Local Administrative Judge, the public can look up the disposition rate of each court through that court’s “dashboard” accessible through the county website.

8. Mr. Montoya criticized the case management decisions of one of my misdemeanor attorneys regarding a DWI case that we dismissed on the eve of trial.  In the management structure of the office, I have a Division Chief over the specialized units; I have a Division Chief over the felony trial section; and I have a Division Chief over the misdemeanor trial section.  As the DWI that Mr. Montoya discussed is a misdemeanor, I will focus there.  The misdemeanor section is supervised by Division Chief Kyle Lasley.  Kyle came to us from the City of El Paso where he was the Chief of Litigation for the City.  Prior to that, he was a Trial Team Chief for the DA’s office under DA Esparza.  I consider the DA’s office to be incredibly lucky to have the likes of Kyle Lasley supervising the misdemeanor attorneys.  Kyle functions much like an old football coach.  He rallies his attorneys together every Friday afternoon and puts them through the paces mentally.  He has a white board out and starts asking them scenario questions and has them work through various fact patterns and legal issues.  The misdemeanor section, although one of the hardest working sections in the office, probably has some of the highest morale in the office.  On December 15, 2022 when I walked down misdemeanor row, the doors to the attorney’s offices were closed and the attorneys were literally hiding in their offices scared.  Day before yesterday I walked down that same hallway at 4:30 and there was not a single closed door and no one was in their office alone.  Most of the attorneys were crowded into one office or another talking and laughing.  In another office two attorney were huddled around a computer monitor watching a DWI video preparing for trial.  It filled me with good vibes to see how happy they all were to just be prosecutors living their best lives.  Is the job hard?  Yes!  Harder than it should be because we are undermanned?  HELL Yes!  Is this a work in progress and will there be mistakes along the way?  Of course there will be!  Are they are pulling together and working through it like champs? Most definitely!  Mr. Montoya, your colleagues at the Public Defender’s office may have pulled one over on us, but I guarantee from the trial reports I am seeing and from the numerous plea reports that I am seeing, the DA’s office is winning the war, despite some losses on a battle here and there.  I am very proud of the work being done by these newest and youngest attorneys and by their Division Chief that is preparing, educating, and coaching them up to see that JUSTICE is being done in our courts. 

Thank you again for the opportunity to respond to the interviews wherein certain things were said that I feel needed to be responded to.  Whether the winner of the runoff election is Mr. Montoya or retired Judge Alma Trejo, I look forward to a face-to-face debate where we can discuss the many issues facing our criminal justice system and the 34th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.”


“The number one issue in this campaign is the critical staffing shortage that the DA’s Office has continued to face since 2021. By my count, just since the beginning of March, seven assistant DA’s – 10% of their current workforce – have given notice of their resignation. The situation is untenable. Real people are being affected. I am the only candidate with the experience, team, and plan to bring long-term stability to the DA’s Office and to resolve both the staffing crisis and the backlog of pending cases.”


(Declined to submit).