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FBI El Paso is done investigating city representatives’ use of taxpayer-funded gas cards

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) —The FBI in El Paso has confirmed to ABC-7 that it investigated allegations of excessive use amongst city representatives’ taxpayer-funded gasoline cards, and the case is now in the hands of federal prosecutors.

"The El Paso Field Office conducted a thorough investigation into the allegations and subsequently presented the comprehensive results and investigative findings to the United States Attorney Office, Western District of Texas for their careful review," according to Jeanette Harper, head of the Office of Public Affairs of the FBI's El Paso division.

Last year, the FBI told ABC-7 it could not confirm nor deny the existence of any open FBI investigations.    

ABC-7 contacted federal prosecutors seeking information about the case's status.   

Mike Lahrman, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, declined to comment citing U.S. Department of Justice policy.    

The audit that prompted law enforcement investigations     

The investigation stems from a gasoline card audit that was done by the city’s Chief Internal Auditor Edmundo Calderon.   

It was for the 2022 calendar year and presented in May of 2023. It included gasoline expenses by former and current council members, and the mayor.  

According to the audit, two city council members, former District 6 Representative Claudia Rodriguez and current District 3 Representative Cassandra Hernandez, purchased thousands of dollars more in gasoline compared to their peers in 2022.    

The audit also pointed out what it called “deficiencies” in the city’s commercial fuel card policy.      

“The policy is specific on use of the Commercial Fuel Card by City Employees on City owned vehicles while conducting City Business,” the report stated. “The Policy does not address the use of Commercial Fuel Cards by Members of the City Council. Also, the policy does not provide guidance on the use of the Commercial Fuel Card on Privately Owned Vehicles (POV) used by Members of the City Council.”       

The 2022 report was also forwarded to the El Paso Police Department. Documents obtained by ABC-7 showed El Paso police investigators said they were unable to find anything criminal in their review as there was no policy to violate.   

The city’s Ethics Review commission reprimanded both Rodriguez and Hernandez for what the audit described as “excessive” use of the privilege.  

Further review of gasoline usage

In May of 2023, the El Paso City Council directed Chief Internal Auditor Edmundo Calderon to do a further analysis of gasoline card usage following the release of the 2022 audit.

ABC-7 filed an open records request on February 13 seeking information on that extended review.     

The City Attorney’s Office is now seeking an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on whether to withhold the information.    

In a letter sent to Paxton on Tuesday, El Paso Senior Assistant City Attorney Juan Gonzalez cited, “the City of El Paso has not affirmatively received notice that the records attached as Exhibits B-1 through B-3 are no longer the subject of an on-going investigation. As such, we believe that the provisions of Section 552.108(a)(1) and (b)(1) of the Government Code apply.”    

On Monday, ABC-7 reached out to the El Paso Police Department to see if it had any open investigations regarding the gasoline card reviews done by the city's Internal Audit Office.   

El Paso Police Department spokesman Adrian Cisneros told ABC-7, “The El Paso Department has no open investigations regarding the city's internal audit.”  

ABC-7 has also reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety to see if it has any current investigations related to the matter.   

At last check, DPS spokesman Sgt. Eliot Torres told ABC-7 the agency did not. 

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El Paso Gasoline Audit
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Lesley Engle


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