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How was $58,131 worth of City of El Paso ‘U-Matter Program’ gift cards distributed?

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- More than $15,000 worth of gift cards purchased in 2022 for the City of El Paso's 'U-Matter Program' remain undistributed as of June 2023, according to documents obtained by ABC-7 through an open records request.

As ABC-7 reported earlier this month, a transaction list of the procurement card (P-card) of City Manager Tommy Gonzalez's secretary showed two transactions made in 2022 at the Cielo Vista Mall for gift cards for the 'U-Matter Program' totaling $58,131.

One purchase occurred on March 16, 2022 for $32,796. The other purchase occurred on November 14, 2022 for $25,335 worth of gift cards.

ABC-7 obtained the itemized list of gift cards purchased in those two transactions through an open records request.

Those records show the following:

  • March 16, 2022: 200 gift cards purchased at $53.83 each ($10,766)
  • March 16, 2022: 200 gift cards purchased at $107.65 each ($21,530)
  • November 14, 2022: 900 gift cards purchased at $26.90 each ($24,210)

Those values include the tax amount, as employees are taxed on their paychecks when receiving a card, according to the city's Chief Financial Officer Robert Cortinas.

The document provided to ABC-7 for the November 14 purchases is titled "Thanksgiving luncheon." It shows all 900 cards were issued to various employees across several city departments. However, there is no record of who received 28 of those cards as the employee did not sign for it.

The records tied to the March 16 purchases who 223 of the 400 cards have yet to be distributed and are labeled as "prepped" and stored in the safe in the comptroller's office. The value of the 223 undistributed cards is $15,556.21.

The most recent batch of cards distributed from these purchases occurred on May 11, 2023 when 43 of the $107.65 gift cards were distributed to employees within the Office of the Comptroller (OTC).

City Spokeswoman Laura Cruz-Acosta told ABC-7 earlier this month the 'U-Matter Program' is a "recognition program that acknowledges employees for performance that truly embodies the mission, vision, and values of our City."

She added employees can be nominated by a council member, manager, supervisor, co-worker or resident. Gift cards are awarded and can come in values of $25, $50, $100 or $250. They are typically awarded within two weeks.

CFO Cortinas says the budget resolution has an annual amount not to exceed $200,000 for the 'U-Matter Program.'

The program has been around since 2015.

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Erik Elken


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