City Rep. Cassandra Hernandez, who is under fire for allegedly abusing her gas card privileges, has finally responded to the ethics complaint filed against her by George Zavala, a resident of her district.

Martin Paredes of El Paso News was the first to break the story and to publish a letter from Felix Valenzuela, Hernandez’s attorney, addressed to City Clerk Laura Prine, City Attorney Karla Nieman, and the City’s outside counsel Frank Garza.

Valenzuela’s letter reveals that Hernandez “vehemently maintains that there was no violation of the City’s Ethics Code provisions,” even though her husband used her gas card multiple times to fill the tank of his personal vehicle.

Valenzuela provides a detailed technical analysis of the language of the City provisions that Zavala claims Hernandez violated, arguing, among other things, that she did not violate them at all because she is a City “officer” and not a City “employee,” and the provisions apply only to City employees.

Valenzuela also claims that Hernandez “did not use City resources for her personal benefit,” and I quote:

“Hernandez is one of the hardest working representatives in El Paso. She uses her personal vehicles to travel to and from City business. She is married and the couple, as husband and wife, primarily use two vehicles: a truck and a SUV. The truck only seats four individuals and does not fit the couple and their five children. As a result, Hernandez interchangeably uses the couple’s cars to conduct her City business and incidentally to shuttle the couple’s five kids to various extracurricular obligations. Because the couple swaps vehicles frequently, Hernandez uses both vehicles to travel for City business, on a frequent basis. Because her work as a City Representative consumes the majority of her daily activities, the travel for her family constitutes incidental usage. Further, the use of the Fuel Card to fuel her vehicles is done on the vehicle she plans to most use, cementing that her primary use of the Fuel Card is for city work.”

Apparently this is her defense for purchasing 35-40% of all gasoline purchased by the Mayor and entire City Council from January 2022 through April 2023.

Nieman has revealed that outside law enforcement, presumably the FBI and/or Texas Rangers, is investigating this issue.

The City Ethics Review Commission will hold a public hearing on July 19 at 5:30pm at City Hall.