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El Paso’s Chief Internal Auditor accuses former City Manager of intimidation

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Edmundo Calderon is the City of El Paso's Chief Internal Auditor. He has worked for the City for the past 19 years. A few months ago he started looking into City Councilmembers' use of taxpayer-funded gas cards. His findings detail alleged misuse of those cards by several members. Now, Calderon says he has faced retaliation as a result of his findings.

"I have never experienced anything [like this] in my 40 years as a professional," Calderon told ABC-7's Saul Saenz in a one-on-one interview this week.

Calderon alleges that top City officials harassed him, denied his department resources, and threatened to deny him a new contract.

He sent a letter to City Attorney Karla Nieman and Mayor Oscar Leeser informing them that he intends to file a grievance and whistleblower lawsuit.

You can read ABC-7's previous reporting on that letter here.

Calderon alleges that the harassment started on April 6, 2023 when he met with El Paso Police Department officials to get help obtaining surveillance video from gas stations where the gas cards were used.

Representative Cassandra Hernandez

District 3 Representative Cassandra Hernandez's gas card use was at the center of Calderon's investigation. The surveillance video allegedly showed her husband filling up his truck at the place and time records show the gas card was used. The video was used as evidence during an Ethics Commission hearing. The commission voted to send Hernandez a letter of reprimand. Hernandez later asked the commission to reconsider its decision, but it declined.

Calderon and the former City Manager

Earlier in the investigation, in May, Calderon alleges that then City Manager Tommy Gonzalez dismissed his work.

"Mr. Gonzalez was visibly upset," Calderon told ABC-7 in the sit-down interview. "It was very intimidating, the tone, the comments he made, the things he said were, in my opinion, not appropriate."

ABC-7 asked Calderon to explain which of Gonzalez's comments he felt were not appropriate.

"He told me that all I had in my analysis were just a bunch of charts and graphs, they didn't tell him anything," Calderon explained.

According to Calderon, Gonzalez dared him to take his findings to the FBI, and claimed that what Calderon was reporting showed no wrongdoing.

Alleged attacks from other City staff

Calderon told ABC-7 that the alleged attacks then started coming from Gonzalez's staff, with several staff members badgering him with questions. Calderon also alleges that Deputy City Manager Mario D'Agostino, who oversees the El Paso Police Department, scolded him.

"Mario D'Agostino, chastising me, scolding me... for contacting the Police Department... telling me 'how dare you contact the Police Department without my permission?' Which I responded, 'Mario, under my charter I am allowed to contact City departments to gain their assistance.'"

Calderon says the alleged badgering continued from other staff members, saying that his findings were flawed.

"What is it that you think they wanted you to do?" Saul asked Calderon in our interview.

"It was an attempt to intimidate me, confuse me, to try to influence my work, and actually impeding my independence."

Budget request denied

Calderon claims a budget request was denied, due to what he believes was retaliation, in June. By then, Gonzalez was no longer City Manager.

"I feel he still had influence," Calderon responded when we asked him if he believed Gonzalez had influenced the budget decision. "He still had influence over the financial side of City Hall, of our government."

On May 6, El Pasoans voted to have the City Auditor report to City Council alone, instead of to the City Manager.

Calderon wonders why he has not been offered a contract to continue working for the City.

ABC-7 reached out to former City Manager Tommy Gonzalez, but he declined to comment.

The City also will not address the allegations, saying it is a personnel matter. The City has until mid-October to respond to Calderon's allegations.

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Saul Saenz

Saul Saenz co-anchors Good Morning El Paso.


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