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Landeros still voted on City Plan Commission after term expired

A controversial member of the El Paso City Plan Commission continued to be involved and vote on the commission, more than a month after his term expired, according to city documents. Jose Landeros served on the commission since Jan. 2, 2014. His first term expired Jan. 2, 2016, and his reappointment was denied by a city council vote April 19.

ABC-7 crews were there at the commission meeting April 21 in city council chambers. Landeros was serving as vice chair when Assistant City Attorney Karla Nieman informed the commission that since his term expi red and a 30-day holdover period had also elapsed, Landeros would have to step down from the commission.

“Any holding over past the 30-day period is prohibited, and after that time a vacancy in the board shall exist and the former member shall have no power to vote or participate in the board proceedings,” Nieman said.

After a short discussion, Landeros did step down from the panel. According to the commission’s website, the position Landeros held appointed by the District 6 City Rep. is now vacant. The commission’s website also states “members of the Commission shall serve until their successors are appointed.” No replacement for Landeros has been appointed yet.

Now Landeros has said he’s not the only commission member to stay beyond the expiration of their term, some for months longer, attending and voting in dozens of meetings. That could call into legal question some past decisions that city council then voted on.

Landeros says there is always a city attorney in these meetings, and that this provision is just now being enforced.

“I think the actions speak for themselves,” Landeros said. “And the inaction in the past from the city attorney’s office to provide this sort of legal advice to council, commission and staff speaks for itself.”

In response to repeated attempts to contact the city attorney’s office, ABC-7 received this response just before deadline from Sylvia Borunda Firth:

“At the beginning of the City Plan Commission meeting held last Thursday, the Legal Department advised Mr. Landeros he was not eligible to sit as a member of the Plan Commission by virtue of the fact a majority of the City Council had voted not to reappoint him. Mr. Landeros’ term expired sometime in January and the El Paso Municipal Code provides as follows:

“2.04.040 – Holding over prohibited.

“When the term of office of any member of any city board or commission expires, the member shall continue to serve until his successor is appointed and qualified, or until thirty days have passed following the expiration of the term, whichever event occurs first. Any holding over past the thirty-day period is prohibited, and after that time a vacancy in the board shall exist and the former member shall have no power to vote or participate in board proceedings; but such vacancy shall not serve to reduce the number of members required for a quorum. This section shall not apply to boards or commissions created by Charter, joint agreement with other political subdivisions, or pursuant to state statute; or to officers, where state law would prohibit such disqualification; or to the photographic traffic signal enforcement system advisory board or the community development steering committee for citizen participation.

“Staff has advised the Legal Department they were not aware of the limitation contained in Section 2.04.040. It is true Mr. Landeros sat as a member of the CPC and voted after the 30 day time period. The legal department has not been asked to provide the City Council with an opinion with regard to the effect of his voting when he was not eligible to serve. However, we note that in most instances the CPC is advisory in nature and final actions are undertaken by the Mayor and City Council.”

The reappointment vote for Landeros was denied in part concerns from City Rep. Michiel Noe about conflicts of interest.

City Rep. Claudia Ordaz had renominated Landeros, who currently works for El Paso County Commissioner Vince Perez as a public policy advisor. Perez is also Ordaz’s fiance.

“I feel, before council votes on this, that you know exactly who Mr. Landeros is,” Noe said during the April 19 city council meeting.

Noe argued Landeros has tried to alter city business, pointing to a series of text messages he sent to Ordaz during a previous council meeting, guiding her on what to say.

“It was a late night the night before and we were going over the presentation,” Ordaz explained. “He provided a service in educating me.”

Noe said he does not believe Landeros can be unbiased on the commission, and that he believes Landeros will take direction from Perez. He also said people who contribute to political campaigns stand before the commission, and because of Landeros’ previous work on Perez’s campaign, he could be influenced where to direct funding.

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