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El Paso Rep. Hernandez accounts for 40% of taxpayer-funded gas purchases in 2023, audit says usage “appears excessive”

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- City of El Paso District 3 City Representative Cassandra Hernandez accounted for nearly 40% of the gasoline purchased using taxpayer-funded cards by El Paso City Council and the Mayor's Office from January 1, 2023 through April 30, 2023, according to an internal audit.

The audit states Hernandez's usage during this time period "appears excessive."

The audit shows Rep. Hernandez spent $1,583.87 on her gas card over the first four months of 2023, which accounts for 39.91% of gas purchases among the nine total individuals.

It includes multiple instances in which Hernandez's gas card was used on consecutive days.

The next closest dollar amount spent was by District 2 City Rep. Alexsandra Annello, who spent $683.56 (17.23%).

No other representative or the mayor accounted for more than 10% of the total purchases.

District 1 Rep. Brian Kennedy and District 7 Rep. Henry Rivera both did not use their gas card at all in 2023 through April.

The audit shows Rep. Hernandez made 31 gasoline purchases over the course of those four months, including several instances where surveillance video shows Hernandez's husband filling up his pickup truck, according to the audit.

"According to Police Report #23101073 obtained from the El Paso Police Department, it states that District 3 Representative drives a 2020 White Honda Odyssey Van," the audit report states. "The District 3 Representative's spouse drives a 2022 Gray Toyota Tacoma Pickup. Based on our analysis of the 10 Security Videos obtained, a White Van is identified 5 times and a Gray Truck is identified 4 times. We were unable to identify the type of vehicle 1 time."

"We are able to identify the District 3 Representative 1 time and her spouse 3 times purchasing fuel. Therefore, we can provide reasonable assurance that the vehicles identified belong to the District 3 Representative and her spouse."

One of those instances referenced in the audit from the police report is the video ABC-7 exclusively obtained through a source who identified Rep. Hernandez's husband as the person filling up a gray pickup truck with more than 17 gallons of premium gasoline on February 10, 2023.

Hernandez told ABC-7 last month she could "confidently say" she was the only person to use her city-issued, taxpayer-funded gas card.

She has not responded to, or answered, several questions ABC-7 has asked her since reporting on the surveillance video.

The audit concludes: "We can provide reasonable assurance that District 3 Representative's and her spouse's vehicles were fueled during the review period."

Rep. Hernandez issued the following statement on Tuesday night in response to the auditor's report:

"My voluntary repayment demonstrates my commitment to protecting the interests of El Paso tax payers and the City.   It is disappointing that the auditor's report continues to demonstrate flawed auditing practices that fail to follow basic standard auditing procedures, which have been outlined in the May 1 and June 5, 2023 Commercial Fuel Card Review. Moreover, there are political motivations at play that detracts from a fair and objective audit process. 
Despite these challenges, it is important to emphasize that both the auditor's report and the El Paso Police Department's report have conclusively stated that my use of the fuel card does not violate any City of El Paso policies or laws. However, I am deeply troubled that there are ongoing attempts to distract El Pasoans from the failures of this leadership, including the costly decision to terminate City Manager Tommy Gonzalez without cause, derailing the Downtown Multi-Purpose Center, and dealing with the repercussions of sexual harassment concerns raised against Rep. Joe Molinar.
I am in constant communication and present in my district with constituents, neighborhood groups, business owners and community leaders. In the first 4 months into this year my office has hosted several district community meetings, given numerous presentations to neighborhood groups and at event presentations, we've helped gather thousands of signatures to rename the police headquarters, we've participated and hosted community cleanups, I've attended school celebrations and ribbon cuttings, and was principal for the day, I have presented various proclamations and resolutions honoring the many efforts our local organizations, I held a discussion panel and online survey on the future of our city manager and police chief positions, in April we organized and hosted a sensory friendly easter event for the all ability community, and most recently launched an amazing city wide tree planting initiative. We accomplished all of this by raising over $100,000 in private donations for District 3 without taxpayer funds.  There is more work to be done and 

I will continue to represent District 3 to the best of my abilities."

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Erik Elken


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