NPT Capitol: Chavez clarifies: She was trying not to do the thing she did
State Rep. Norma Chavez sends an email yesterday trying to explain her last-minute amendment to the El Paso County ethics bill. You can read it for yourself, but right off the bat, what stands out is her assertion that she isn’t trying to spread “rumors or innuendo.” Which is good, because, you know, if you stuck something like that in the middle of a contentious, highly publicized process and copy the media, you might, you know, be spreading rumor and innuendo. So it’s good that she’s not trying to do that.
Read the e-mail from Chavez, which was in response to one from County Commissioner Anna Perez after the jump. Below the Chavez-Perez e-mails is one from state Rep. Marisa Marquez, in which she declines to accept the Chavez proposal.
The ethics bill, SB 1368, is on the House Local Calendar for Friday.
I too do not have all the details regarding this matter. Rather than spread rumors or innuendo that might harm someone unfairly, I thought it best to request Rep. Marquez consider the amendment. I have not, as of yet, heard from Rep. Marquez regarding whether she will accept the amendment.
I am sure you aware that we were successful in having Senator Shapleigh’s bill placed on the Local and Consent Calendar this Friday. Any amendment, including this one, must be accepted by the author within the ten minutes allotted for the bill’s passage on the House Floor. Any debate on the bill that extends beyond the ten minutes would jeopardize the entire bill. None of our delegation wants that to happen.
The type of behavior covered by this amendment was brought to our attention by a constituent. In order to make sure that this behavior by elected officials does not put the Sheriff or his administration, or one of the deputies in a clearly suspect situation, we want to make sure it is covered in the Code of Ethics, the content of which still remains unspecified. Requiring this to be in the Code will eliminate the problem by making it clear that it must be included. Elected officials should not be able to use their position to avoid responsibility for their actions.
I asked the Parliamentarian to clarify whether or not the amendment is germane. She indicated she would tell us tomorrow.
The process here, allows a member to amend a bill on the Local Calendar but it must be agreed upon as there is no time for floor debate. Experienced legislators know that it is legislative courtesy to inform the House Sponsor in advance of any floor amendments, especially a bill on the Local and Consent Calendar. That is why I presented it within the appropriate timeline. The amendment does not stop SB 1368 from advancing through the House process. Again, my greatest concern is that any Local Calendar come behind Voter ID. As I sit on the Calendars Committee, I believe the Local Calendar will precede Voter ID in the event it set on Friday.
Anyone telling you that the amendment in anyway is stalling the legislation is not being truthful. The House runs different than the Senate. The fact that the House is almost evenly split 74 D’s and 76 R’s (and with Kuempel they are 75 R’s) it creates an entirely different dynamic than the Senate.
We all stand together ready to move forward and defend the bill against any attempts to bump the bill off the Local and Consent Calendar.
I am convinced it will pass on Friday. If the amendment is not germane we ask that you consider it when establishing the Code of Ethics.
Commissioner Perez, thank you for awarding me the courtesy, respect and freedom to have an honest and open discussion without unfounded accusations and attacks to my genuine concerns with the bill as filed. Rep. Marquez worked some of my concerns into the bill and we have made the bill better. I look forward to working with you in the future.
In a message dated 5/19/2009 1:43:19 P.M. Central Daylight Time, Commissioner1@epcounty.com writes:
Rep. Chavez – Thank you for including the members of Commissioners Court in your note. You describe that “there has been some discussion on this in El Paso.” I have never heard of any incident of special privileges for elected officials from our sheriff’s department personnel. I have consulted with the Sheriff and our legal department and they have confirmed this. I don’t know if you received inaccurate information from someone intending to embarrass or disparage a public official and/or our Sheriff’s deputies, or if it in fact is a legitimate occurrence, but it would be helpful to know who is discussing this issue in order to get to the bottom of it. This may entail criminal activity by use of county property for personal use and it should be investigated. A situation as this cannot wait to be addressed until the Ethics Bill passes.
Separately however, there are a variety of reasons why this amendment, in my opinion, would not be appropriate for inclusion in the bill. I believe there will be follow-up information of these reasons for you and Rep. Marquez to consider.
Finally, we are very close to the finish line on the Ethics legislation. I hope that whatever information you have received that caused you to propose this amendment or the timing of this proposed amendment does not dissuade other members of the House from supporting this bill. In fact, I think it actually highlights the need for it – by demonstrating either misuse of County property or willful denigration of a public servant and our Sheriff’s Department, – conduct for which someone must be held accountable.
Thank you for your time and your continued support for this important piece of legislation.
From Marquez in response to Chavez’s amendment
Thank you for sharing with me your last proposed amendment to S.B. 1368, the El Paso County ethics commission bill.
I am not inclined to accept the amendment.
As you know, we responded to the concerns raised by the Sheriff’s Deputies by providing in the bill that nothing to do with the ethics process would alter the relationship between them, the Sheriff and the County as defined in the collective bargaining agreement or civil services rules. Your amendment speaks directly to the relationship between the Sheriff and the Deputies and I don’t think this bill is the proper place to do that.
The bill does not contain any ethics rules. All it does is authorize an ethics commission, if one is created, to adopt and enforce an ethics code. Your amendment would be the only substantive ethics provision in the bill; everything else in the bill is about creating and operating a commission. There are many issues that could go into an ethics code and I believe we have wisely left creation of that code to an appointed ethics commission composed of El Pasoans who can thoughtfully consider at one time all of the issues a code should address.
If an ethics commission is created, it would go about creating a code in a public process with the input of all the citizens of El Paso. I want the citizens of El Paso to write the substantive standards of an ethics code. All we need from the Legislature is the authority to create a commission and we do not need the ethics code itself to be written in Austin.
Thank you again for your suggestion.