(Editor's note: ABC-7 incorrectly reported Asst. Health Department Director Angela Mora had been promoted to the Director of Health position. While City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said she would be heading the department, she has not been officially named to the position.)
EL PASO, Texas -- Budget-saving measures made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic may have precipitated the departure of experienced managers within the City of El Paso.
El Paso City Manager Tommy Gonzalez told ABC-7 on Wednesday that retirement calculations for employees were being affected by recent salary cuts implemented for city employees. Without mentioning names, Gonzalez said employees who had planned to retire in the fall had moved up their departure dates so as to maintain their level of salary in the wake of retirement.
Robert Resendes, who'd been serving as Director of Health since 2013, and Monica Lombraña, who oversaw Operations and Transportation, have announced their retirement over the last two weeks.
Gonzalez said assistant health department director Angela Mora is heading the department.
“Mora is the assistant director there, and she’s actually been there for a little bit over ten years,” said Gonzalez, expressing confidence in her.
A city spokesperson on Wednesday evening reached out to ABC-7 offering what she said was a clarification of the city manager's earlier comments.
"His intention was to explain that we currently have an assistant director, Angela Mora, but in addition to that there is a combined effort between the fire department and the department of public health as to the direction that they’re gonna be heading," the spokeswoman wrote in a text message.
City Council member Claudia Rodriguez is both frustrated and upset that she and others on council know nothing about what's going on.
“It is very upsetting, we’re not being told everything that’s going on. We’re not part of that process of making these types of decisions,” said Rodriquez, the district 6 representative.
City spokeswoman Laura Cruz told ABC-7 that the city charter reserves all powers related to personnel decisions to the city manager. The charter states council has oversight over two employees: the city manager and the city attorney. All other employees -- about 6,000 of them-- are under the city manager's authority.
City Rep. Rodriguez said council has also been left in the dark about why Lombraña chose to retire as director of the El Paso International Airport. City engineer Sam Rodriguez will replace Lombraña, Gonzalez recently announced.
Rodriquez said the elected city leaders are being kept in the dark about personnel decisions being made at City Hall.
“It is unacceptable because people are reaching out to our offices for guidance. And we’re very limited as to what we can tell them. We can tell them everything that’s being put out. We don’t know any back stories.” said Rodriguez.
The city manager defended his method of operating, saying once decisions regarding personnel moves are made, they inform the elected leadership.
“We update the council as soon as we get that information. And then as soon as we get that information we get that out to the media so that the media also hears it from us first,” Gonzalez said.
The city manager indicated there were no financial incentives offered to any department directors to retire; Gonzalez said Resendes and Lombrana decided to leave on their own.
He added that the city would save money by promoting from within to fill those vacancies, but he was unable to immediately estimate the budget impact from those retirements.