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City manager’s office spent more than $100,000 in taxpayer money on city-issued P-card since 2022

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- El Paso City Manager Tommy Gonzalez's office spent more than $100,000 using taxpayer-funded procurement cards (P-cards) from January 2022 to April 2023, according to documents obtained by ABC-7.

The documents show each transaction made during that time period on two separate P-cards, one belonging to City Manager Tommy Gonzalez and the other to his secretary Rosa Maria Monsivais.

Tommy Gonzalez's P-Card Purchases

The city manager's card was used to make 50 purchases for a total of $6,809.61. The majority of those charges are at restaurants and all but six transactions are under $100.

The largest purchase, and the only one to exceed $1,000, was for a hotel in April 2022 for more than $1,600.

There are several other charges for hotels and car rentals.

P-Card of City Manager's Secretary Charged Nearly $100K

The vast majority of the spending shows up on the city manager's secretary's P-card.

Documents just obtained by ABC-7 show Monsivais' P-card was used more than 150 times from January 2022 to April 2023 totaling $98,195.87.

There are several key takeaways as to what that money was spent on:

  • The most common description ABC-7 noticed tied to either working lunches or, on occasion, a dinner. The documents ABC-7 obtained show 47 such transactions, often for city council meetings. Lunches for the council, mayor and others often exceeded $500. The 47 working lunch purchases totaled: $17,424.21 
  • Only four purchases are $1,000+. On March 8, 2023, the secretary's P-card was charged $1,000 for a table for an event organized by the El Paso Community Foundation - Change Makers: Elected Women Serving the Borderland. Similarly, the city manager's office purchased three tables on April 10, 2023 for the YWCA luncheon for a cost of $3,000.
  • Two purchases are outliers when it comes to cost: 
    • March 16, 2022: $32,796 (Cielo Vista Mall gift cards)
    • November 14, 2022: $25,335 (Cielo Vista Mall gift cards)
    • The documents show the description of those purchases is for the city's 'U-Matter Program.' ABC-7 asked City Spokeswoman Laura Cruz-Acosta several questions about what the program entails and how the gift cards are awarded to city staff. She says it is a "recognition program that acknowledges employees for performance that truly embodies the mission, vision, and values of our City." Cruz-Acosta adds 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. The program has been around since 2015. ABC-7 asked how many gift cards the city currently has that have yet to be awarded. Cruz-Acosta is working to get ABC-7 that answer. 
    • The total for the two U-Matter Program gift card purchases at the Cielo Vista Mall: $58,131 
  • There are 21 transactions that violate the city's travel policy. During a May 4th Financial Oversight & Audit Committee meeting, Chief Internal Auditor Edmundo Calderon said his sampling discovered one travel charge from the city manager's office that was not permitted. It was pertaining to an 'early bird check-in' through Southwest Airlines. But documents obtained by ABC-7 show 21 such charges of $15 a piece, a total of $315. Calderon stated 'early bird check-in' charges are "not allowed in our travel policy."

UPDATE: ABC-7 was also contacted on Thursday by District 3 City Rep. Cassandra Hernandez regarding our reporting of a $3,400 purchase at Food City on November 18, 2022 on her P-card.

While the City of El Paso has yet to provide receipts requested of P-card purchases in a May 12, 2023 open records request, Rep. Hernandez provided a copy of a receipt that shows a purchase of 100 turkeys at a cost of $34 per turkey.

"I would like to clarify that these expenses were charged to a donation account of $5,000 intended for district holiday related expenses, and public funds were not used," Rep. Hernandez said in a statement. "All procedures were followed to post the donation on a city council agenda in November 2022 approved by council, and all expenses related to the donation and holiday community events were approved as well."

ABC-7 reported on Tuesday the largest single transaction in the documents obtained at the time was the $3,400 purchase by Rep. Hernandez at Food City around Thanksgiving.

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Erik Elken


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