EL PASO, Texas (CBS4) — A "fuel card use" review provided by the El Paso Internal Audit Office revealed "high use" for gas cards issued to a current city representative and a former city representative.
On Thursday, a special meeting was held to discuss city council's and the city manger's office fuel card use for 2022.
Some of the findings revealed transactions made while a city representative was out of town and in other instances, the gas card being used outside of El Paso.
Edmund Calderon, chief internal auditor, revealed that a representative's gas card was used to purchase 4 gallons of fuel and in a separate purchase, 5 gallons of fuel that were pumped into a gas can, which could have been possibly for an ATV.
Another transaction that stood out was when a representative's gas card was used to purchase fuel at night and used again the next morning.
The report listed the gas card for representative Cassandra Hernandez was used during city council meetings held on July 6, 2022 at 12:24 p.m., July 19, 2022 at 4:38 p.m., November 22, 2022 at 12:05 p.m. and Jan. 3 2023 at 5:12 p.m.
Hernandez's gas card was also reportedly used twice while she was in Vancouver, Canada attending the International downtown Association conference.
The findings included fuel card usage for former city representative, Claudia Rodriguez, who represented district 6.
Rodriguez's gas card was reportedly used twice in Van Horn, Texas.
Calderon told city council members he had brought a 2020 transaction made in Pecos, Texas to Rodriguez. Rodriguez told Calderon she used the wrong card. Calderon said he advised Rodriguez and shed told him she would never do it again.
Following that conversation, Calderon said Rodriguez's gas card was use twice, out of town, in separate occasions. Calderon said once in July 2021 in Carlsbad, New Mexico and in Fort Stockton, Texas in July 2021.
The findings were provided to an El Paso police detective who conducted a criminal investigation, which was later closed when no criminal acts were found.
Mayor Oscar Leeser asked Calderon, "No one has asked you to change or alter or do anything different in your report found?"
Calderon said, "No sir, I won't allow it. I am the independent auditor, sir. I take what I do very seriously."
"Do you believe that you were ever pressured or felt that someone was trying to intimidate you, at any point" asked Leeser.
"I rather not answer, Mayor," Calderon said. "Anyone from council," asked Leeser again. "I rather not answer," Calderon said.
*The policy was put into place in July 2021 and revised in June 2022
Recommendation made by El Paso Internal Audit Office:
The City of El Paso should create a program of offering Members of the City Council a Vehicle Allowance instead of providing a Commercial Fuel Card. This would limit the use of large amounts of fuel by Members of the City Council. The City of El Paso currently has a program of paying Executives a monthly Vehicle Allowance for using their POV for conducting City business. A similar program should be created for Members of the City Council.
Require the use of the "Log of Fuel Purchases" instead of only encouraging the use of the log as listed in Section 7 in the Commercial Fuel Policy.
The City of El Paso's Commercial Fuel Policy & Use Procedure (ALON) should be revised to require users of the Commercial Fuel Card to enter their Mileage at the time of purchase when prompted.
Calderon also recommended a statement of understanding for every employee who is issued or uses a commercial fuel card, which include the El Paso police and fire department personnel.
Public comment was heard around noon.
In a 6 to 1 vote, council voted to direct outside council to give options for an independent investigator to conduct and investigation and for the the internal auditor to complete his report to include previous years and the current year.
Hernandez voted against it.
"There's City Council voted right now to have an independent investigator to investigate everything at the work of the auditor and there’s been some allegations the city Council the mayor the auditor the FOAC that they have not done their jobs. So we want to make sure we give everything due process in hiring an investigator," Leeser said.
Lesser explained they’re asking an attorney to hire the investigator.
He stressed they will be 100 percent independent and unrelated to anyone on council or working with the city.
No timeline for when that investigation will begin or be complete.
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