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Chief Internal Auditor to file whistleblower lawsuit against City of El Paso

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Months after an audit revealed unauthorized charges on a city council member's fuel card, the man who brought it to light now says he was intimidated and retaliated against by former city manager Tommy Gonzalez because of his audit.

The City of El Paso's Chief Internal Auditor, Edmundo Calderon, is now threatening to sue the City under the state's whistleblower statute.

El Paso attorney Laura Enriquez, who is representing Calderon, sent a three-page letter to City Attorney Karla Nieman and Mayor Oscar Leeser on July 21. ABC-7 has obtained a copy of that letter.

Enriquez claims her client was the victim of harassment and retaliation by Tommy Gonzalez and his staff.

"Gonzalez was intimidating my client, trying to influence his work and impede his independence at the City Chief Internal Auditor making references to a request for a raise," the letter reads in part, referencing a May 18 meeting.

In the letter, Calderon's attorney alleges that on June 9 he was denied a budget request for cybersecurity work for $250,000 and was only approved for $100,000. By that time, Tommy Gonzalez had taken a lesser role as advisor to the Interim City Manager, Cary Westin, in anticipation of his departure at the end of the month.

ABC-7 reached out to Gonzalez about the allegations and he declined to comment.

Calderon says the pressure started after he reported the possible misuse of a city-issued fuel card by District 3 City Representative Cassandra Hernandez to the El Paso Police Department. He says he took that action so the police would subpoena video from gas stations where the fuel card was used, as he did not have the power to do that.

After an investigation, the City's Ethics Commission found that Representative Hernandez had misused the benefit and voted to issue her a letter of reprimand on July 20. She lost an appeal to remove the letter from her record on August 23. No charges have been filed by police.

As ABC-7 has reported, City Representative Brian Kennedy said Calderon asked him to witness the meeting as he feared pressure to change the findings of his review.

The mayor had asked Calderon during a public meeting if he had been pressured.

"Do you believe you were ever pressured or felt that someone was trying to intimidate you at any point?" Mayor Leeser asked in the meeting.

"I'd rather not answer," Calderon answered.

"Would that mean you're pleading the Fifth? I'm just wondering," Leeser responded.

"I haven't done anything criminal, but no, I just prefer not to answer, sir."

Enriquez says the letter is meant to allow the city time to address and correct the allegations. She says it is also a required step for filing a whistleblower lawsuit in Texas, and they intend to seek the highest damages allowed.

ABC-7 reached out to the City for comment. A spokeswoman told us that City leadership cannot comment on personnel matters.

ABC-7 continues to look for more information.

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Larry Monarrez


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