Mr. Phillip Thomas Laign, Jr., a taxpayer and homeowner in District 6, filed the attached complaint against former City Rep. Claudia Lizette Rodriguez with the Ethics Review Commission at 9:47am this morning, alleging that she abused her gas card privileges while in office. Rodriguez lost her seat on City Council after losing her runoff election December 17, 2022. Her replacement, Rep. Art Fierro, began his term January 3, 2023.

Section 2.92.120 of the Ethics Ordinance makes clear that “The Ethics Review Commission shall have jurisdiction to review alleged violations of Article II (Standards and Conduct) of this chapter by Officers that occurred within 2 years of the complaint being filed.” There is no exception for officers who are no longer in office and within the two-year statute of limitations.

In his complaint, Laign alleges that Rodriguez violated 2.92.030 (A.1) and (A.7), stating:

On April 5, 2023, Chief Internal Auditor Edmundo Calderon told Police Detective Jerome Hinojos that he received an anonymous tip in November 2022 on the 1-800 line alleging that outgoing City Rep. Claudia Lizette Rodriguez of District 6 “had used her City issued card while campaigning.” After this tip, regarding “stolen gasoline,” Mr. Calderon conducted an audit of all fuel card purchases by the Mayor and City Council for 2022. (Exhibit 2, p. 7) The audit was published May 1, 2023 and found that in 2022 Rodriguez’s card was used to buy 1,459 gallons of fuel in 86 separate transactions at a cost of $5,294 to the taxpayers, representing 28% of all fuel purchased by the Mayor and City Council in that year. (Exhibit 3, pp. 7-8).

The audit identifies three instances of purchases on consecutive days and two instances of purchases of more than 14 gallons on the same day. In addition, the audit indicates that in 2022 both regular unleaded (20 instances) and supreme unleaded (66 instances) were purchased.

In November 2022, there were 5 purchases of regular unleaded and 5 of supreme, including one instance of purchases on consecutive days and two instances of purchases on the same day. During that month, when Representative Rodriguez’s campaign for reelection was gearing up for the runoff election of December 17, there was an average of only 2.78 days between fill-ups. The frequency of fill-ups is consistent with the anonymous tip.

Beyond this, the audit shows that 13.9 gallons were purchased in Van Horn, Texas on May 22, 2022. Another 19.3 gallons were purchased in Van Horn on August 11, 2022. No City business could have been conducted in or near these remote locations. Chief Internal Auditor Edmundo Calderon told the Financial Oversight and Advisory Committee (FOAC) in open session on May 4, 2023 that he had previously admonished Representative Rodriguez in 2020 for a gas purchase she made in Pecos, Texas. (Exhibit 4 at 2:04:10) An El Paso Matters report dated June 11, 2023 confirms the Pecos event and also documents that she filled her tank in Carlsbad, New Mexico during the July 4, 2021 weekend and in Fort Stockton, Texas in that same year. Thus, Rodriguez engaged in a pattern and in 2022 she already knew that such behavior is unacceptable. (Exhibit 5) Mr. Calderon told FOAC and the El Paso Times that Representative Rodriguez failed to submit any travel request for the two Van Horn trips. (Exhibit 4 starting at 1:51:20, Exhibit 6)

According to the Mr. Calderon, “Based on the amount of fuel being purchased, the frequency of fuel purchases on consecutive/same days, and the type of fuel purchased in Calendar year 2022; the data indicates 2 or more vehicles are being fueled. The amount of fuel purchased by District 6 for Calendar year 2022 appears excessive.” (Exhibit 3, p. 8)

Finally, the audit indicates Rodriguez also purchased fuel on January 2, 2023, her last day in office, indicating she was almost certainly using City fuel when she was no longer employed by the City. (Exhibit 3, p. 7 under “December 2022”)

In an Instagram video post dated May 7, 2023, former Representative Rodriguez did not accept blame for any wrongdoing and attacked the members of FOAC, the Mayor, and the “politically motivated,” “illegal,” and “corrupt process” that revealed the gas card figures. She claimed she is “not guilty of anything.” She held up two bank checks totaling $5,300 and offered to reimburse the City for her 2022 gas if someone could prove she broke any rules. She claimed the fuel was used to do her job and that she drove “over 50,000 miles” in her vehicle for work. (Exhibit 7, starting at 1:12)

Laign requests that the Ethics Review Commission “take appropriate disciplinary action against former City Representative Claudia Lizette Rodriguez for her violations of two provisions of the City Ethics Ordinance.”

Rep. Cassandra Hernandez received a Letter of Reprimand from the Ethics Review Commission last month for similar behavior.

Will former Rep. Claudia Lizette Rodriguez also receive a Letter of Reprimand, and will she reimburse the City for her 2022 gas expenditures?

Have a nice day.