City attorney apologizes to council about agenda item involving husband
EL PASO, Texas —
Another possible conflict of interest issue involving City Attorney Sylvia Borunda Firth has come to light.
This time, it involves Firth’s husband and law partners who had interest in taking ownership of some property.
In an email obtained by CBS4, Firth apologizes to city council members and the mayor about not disclosing the item about the purchase on the city council meeting’s agenda.
The email reads:
Items 24.2 1nd 24.3 on the agenda for next week involve real estate in which my husband and his law partners have an ownership interest. I am sorry I did not disclose this earlier but I did not even know these items were on the agenda. Please rest assured that I have not had anything to do with the processing of the applications, nor have I been involved with the work done by my husband, or on his behalf with regard to the development. When the matter is presented to council tomorrow, I will excuse myself from the room and allow Terri Cullen to provide any legal advice the council might need when considering the matter. If you have any questions please feel free to call me. I do not know any of the details with regard to the redevelopment of the site but I am happy to speak to you about the fact I have properly shielded myself from any involvement with the legal work that may have been necessitated by the project.
We reported this week that the city paid nearly $1 million to Firth’s sister for legal work in what could also be a possible conflict of interest.
The records from the city show the city paid Chris Borunda more than $840,000 between January 2011 and May 2018.
The city attorney's office has used her firm -- Ray, McChristian & Jeans -- numerous times for legal services.
City representatives did not comment on the matter because of their existing separation agreement with Firth, which prohibits them from discussing her employment with the media.
Borunda has not responded to questions, either.
Firth’s last day as city attorney is May 31. Her retirement was announced April 26. Recent text messages indicate Mayor Dee Margo may have wanted the public perception to be that she retired.
CBS4 asked Mayor Dee Margo and City Manager Tommy Gonzalez why Firth received the severance package she did if her contract called for a six months’ severance if she was terminated. But the press release issued by the city stated she was retiring.
Both Margo and Gonzalez declined to comment on the issue.
Linda Ball Thomas, the director of the human resources department, said retirement and termination are not necessarily different and that the Firth’s severance package followed her contract.
CBS4 obtained a copy of Firth’s evaluation, which shows the council wasn’t happy with her and suggests Firth was pushed out.