Imagen via El Mañana
What do you do when the governmental entity you help manage is facing one of the worst financial strains in recent history? You put out an emotional press release, of course.
County Judge Cayetano* Tijerina posted a lengthy statement on his Facebook feed last weekend, as a critical budget workshop meeting was fast approaching. The tone was epic and weary, like that of a man heading into battle or something. He supposedly spent many a sleepless night pouring over ways of coming up with a balanced county budget. Everything was considered; Thoughts and preparations were exhausted. There was no more due diligence to diligently do. It was time to make the difficult decisions. The ax, many feared, would fall.
Monday afternoon came and the meeting started with the usual practices: Pledge of Allegiance, roll call, and
Then came the financial tag team of Leroy Medford and Gerardo Uribe. Budget officers extraordinaire. They, along with County Auditor Leo Flores, provided the meat and potatoes portion of the meeting. They were all grilled by the unsettled triumvirate of Jaime Canales, John Galo, and Frank Sciaraffa. These commissioners brought their A game. The Tijerinas, on the other hand, acted like lumps on a stump.
The meeting lasted two hours and the best the county judge could do was to be a bookend participant, leading off the gathering and making a motion at the end.
Commissioners Court was supposedly thrown for a loop when the auditor presented different figures than the budget officers. Mr. Flores expects a $5 million deficit next year. The budget officers put the deficit at more than double that. The wise court, led by Judge Tijerina, decided to put everything on hold, and have the money men meet on their own to reach a conclusion on what the deficit really amounts to.
With a little over a month to go, and a balanced budget being the goal, the court tabled everything for another week.
It's hard to take the county judge's comments at face value. He posts an impassioned screed on Facebook, talking about due diligence, tough decisions, and of knowing about the deficit problem for months. Yet, when it comes time to act, he doesn't chime in at all; He doesn't question anything. And it's obvious that he doesn't know what is going on.
What he does instead is badmouth the county auditor in the newspaper the day after the meeting. He doesn't say anything about how they got to this situation: about how, maybe, the court itself spent money it shouldn't have. He doesn't mention the hapless budget officers. He doesn't call out his colleagues for being at a loss at this point in time. Tijerina has done his due diligence and now it's appropriate to throw the auditor, and only the auditor, under the bus.
I'll be on the lookout for another of Tijerina's Facebook posts where he sets his burdened soul for all to see. And maybe after that, the county will be able to balance an ailing budget.
*I'm guessing Tano's real name is Cayetano.