Mayor Leeser: Auditor felt ‘pressured’ to ‘change his report’ on taxpayer-funded gas card audit
EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said in an exclusive interview with ABC-7 on Friday that the city's chief internal auditor felt 'pressured' to change his report looking into the 2022 usage of taxpayer-funded city gasoline cards by city council members.
Chief Internal Auditor Edmundo Calderon's report found "excessive" use of the gas cards by two elected officials in 2022 - District 3 City Rep. Cassandra Hernandez and former District 6 City Rep. Claudia Rodriguez.
During a May 11 special session about the auditor's findings, Mayor Leeser asked Calderon:
"Do you believe you were ever pressured or felt that someone was trying to intimidate you at any point?"
Calderon paused for seven seconds before replying: "I'd rather not answer."
ABC-7 asked Leeser what he took away from that exchange in city council chambers.
"I know the answer," Leeser said. "He's come to me and he feels that he has been pressured. He feels there's been some people making him try to change his report."
Leeser did not disclose who those people he was referring to are.
"It's up to [Calderon] to make that complaint. It's up to him to move forward. I have had this conversation with him. I asked the question knowing the answer."
Leeser said he expects Calderon to file a formal complaint stating who pressured him “sooner or later.” He added Calderon’s choice not to disclose that information during the public special session tells him Calderon is “very concerned … because of the way he was treated.”
ABC-7 also asked the mayor if he believes Rep. Hernandez is fit to serve office.
“It's important that the due process continues to be heard. And that the D.A. [Bill Hicks] has the opportunity to look at the full file, that everything is looked at. That other agencies that may be looking at it, that they have the opportunity to look at it before we make judgment on it.”
A resident of Hernandez’s district filed a formal ethics complaint against her on Friday.
ABC-7 repeatedly asked her questions about her gas card usage after a town hall meeting Thursday, but she declined to answer any questions.
She told ABC-7 earlier this month she could “confidently say” she was the only person to use her city-issued, taxpayer-funded gas card.
However, surveillance video obtained by ABC-7 from a credible source that was part of an El Paso Police investigation looking into possible theft. That source says the video shows Hernandez's husband, Jeremy Jordan, filling up more than 17 gallons of premium gas into his vehicle in February.
As part of Calderon’s report to council on May 11, he also revealed Hernandez’s gas card was used multiple times in El Paso in September 2022 while she was on a city business trip in Vancouver, Canada.
Calderon told the mayor during the special city council session that information wasn’t part of his audit report and that he made the decision to hold it and provide it to El Paso Police.
However, EPPD closed its investigation into possible theft 17 days prior to Calderon’s final report.
The police report states the decision to close the investigation was made in part because Assistant District Attorney Doug Tiemann told the detective police the D.A.‘s office would decline the case due to lacking all elements to charge Hernandez with a crime.
El Paso District Attorney Bill Hicks told ABC-7 earlier this week in an exclusive interview that his office never declined a case because it was never presented the full facts of the case.
ABC-7 will continue to follow developments in this story.