EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- In an exclusive interview with ABC-7, El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said he’s concerned about the amount of spending on city procurement cards, or P-cards.
"I want to look at that and make sure that the citizens of El Paso know that we are looking at it and we will take action and we will take control of it,” Leeser said. “As the Mayor of the City of El Paso, I do guarantee I will make sure that their best interests will always be looked after.”
ABC-7 asked if taking control means he thinks it is currently out of control.
“Well, we didn’t have proper policies, so I think you can probably answer that question yourself without asking me, but I know the citizens are looking for me, not you to answer it. But no, there are some policies that need to be tightened up. Whether you have a policy or not, we are elected officials and as elected officials we are held to higher standards. You don’t have to have a policy to be able to do the right thing."
Former City Rep. Spends $7,556.48 In One Day
Former District 6 City of El Paso Representative Claudia Rodriguez spent more than $7,500 in one day using her taxpayer-funded procurement card (P-card), according to documents obtained by ABC-7 through an open records request.
The representative at the time made eight purchases on October 13, 2022, seven of which occurred at the same Walmart store. Five of those seven purchases were within four dollars of $1,000 but did not exceed that amount.
The other purchase was for $993.20 at Target.
ABC-7 also requested receipts of the transactions in an open records request on April 19, 2023, but we have not received anything to date.
The records of purchases obtained by ABC-7 comes as City of El Paso Chief Internal Auditor Edmundo Calderon continues to look into past and recent spending by city employees.
Purpose of P-Card Program
The P-card program's purpose is to "facilitate the payment of small dollar purchases," according to the policy. Cards are issued to City of El Paso staff.
ABC-7 asked City of El Paso spokeswoman Laura Cruz-Acosta how many employees have a P-card, but we did not receive a response.
The mayor's office told ABC-7 it would have to check tomorrow because it does not maintain P-card info within the office.
The P-cards are Visa cards issued by Wells Fargo in an individual's name. Transactions made on that card are paid directly by the City to the bank.
Using P-cards for personal use is strictly prohibited, according to the policy.
The City's P-card policy also states each P-card has an assigned credit limit which is determined by the department head, but Cruz-Acosta also did not respond to our question asking what that limit is for city council representatives.
In addition to the credit limit, the P-cards also have a single transaction limit placed on each individual card, but the City also did not answer ABC-7's question as to what that amount is.
The policy clearly states: "A purchase should NOT be split to avoid the single transaction limit."
Current District 6 Rep. Art Fierro, who defeated Rodriguez in a runoff election in December 2022, placed two items on the agenda in April to look into the usage of taxpayer-funded city gasoline cards, saying there was no system of checks and balances.
Auditor's Key Findings on P-Card Usage
On May 11, 2023, Calderon presented his findings during a special city council meeting, which included three key takeaways regarding the P-cards:
- Council and the City Manager's office conducted 2,309 transactions totaling $543,571.61
- 334 of the 2,309 transactions (~15%) totaling $67,595.52 did not have a description in the description field
- 2 receipts were not found or provided to the internal audit office. Those two purchases totaled $320.06 and were both made by former District 6 City Rep. Claudia Rodriguez, one at Dick's Sporting Goods and the other at a Sheraton in Fort Worth
Calderon reported to the Financial Oversight & Audit Committee (FOAC) that the City Manager's office attempted to get those receipts but "wasn't getting any cooperation from the district office."
ABC-7 reached out to former Rep. Rodriguez for an interview about her purchases, but she did not respond.
Calderon said one of the adjustments made since the discoveries in his report is the comptroller’s office can now turn off an individual’s P-card if the office is not receiving receipts in a timely fashion.