Friday, May 26, 2017

Is She A Fraud?


Two weeks ago, Patricia Barrera made heads turn when she announced that she paid her employees out of her own pocket, because Webb County did not issue them their paychecks.  KGNS reported that 40 of Barrera's employees were not using the county-mandated biometric system for punching in.  As a result, pay checks were not issued and then there was the matter of them not accumulating sick leave and annual leave.


(statement released by Webb Co. today)

Barrera pressed on with the only recourse she found appropriate: filing a restraining order against the commissioners court.  Instead of getting her house in order, she went at the county dads (term used by Odie Arambula) with a legal fight.

According to a county spokesperson, the Time Clock Plus (biometric system) machines were introduced by the county 3 years ago.  Commissioners opted to make the system THE apparatus of choice for Webb Co. late last year.  Barrera decided not to climb on board with the punch-in system, and that brings us to now, with another Patricia Barrera scandal.

The word fraud has come up with this case.  It's unknown whether any intentional malfeasance has taken place at the tax assessors office.  The only thing we know is that Barrera doesn't intend to let this go.  She may fight some more.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Street In Laredo


How many landmarks can you spot in this photo?

Changes A Major


Full disclosure:  I worked in the Health Services Department.  And then I was fired; Or better yet, my contract was selected for non-renewal, and my department was eliminated.


Major changes were instituted at LCC, thanks to the new president and an accommodating board of trustees.  The president of the college thought the organization had too many chiefs, so the natural response, of course, is to let several of them go.  But why would you do that when you want to start up four new programs, including a cyber security program, and a program for drones, whatever that is.


The new president, in making bold moves for the college, is also up for an award.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Labor Force Need


There are jobs that need to be filled.  Guest workers fill that need.  The demand is real.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Same Old Drivel


South Texas jerk off Jay St. John is back in town.  The loutish sexagenarian appeared alongside Sergio Mora in a Facebook live broadcast Friday evening.  Mora and John used to be regulars on morning drive radio.  Laredo's lack of public radio outlets and political talk drove me to tune in to the show, which will have a nightly presence online on weekdays.

My thoughts on Friday's preview: how can I get that hour and a half back?

Sergio and Jay laid out their plans for the show, noting that they'll shoot for having their voices on social media and terrestrial radio, simultaneously.  They're embracing what technology has to offer.  The downside is that Jay St. John brings back the tired tropes he was known for: insulting everyone and offering little proof of anything.  He brings no new information to the fold and I feel like I lose IQ points every time I listen to him.

Listen at your own peril.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Lemurs Done In Laredo


Photo of KGNS story from May 3, 2017.  The big scoop:

The city of Laredo has confirmed that Lemurs owner, Arianna Torres has withdrawn Laredo's team from membership in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball League.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

And That's



A nice canopy, benches, and bike rack were the featured items during a press conference held by Councilman Rodriguez on Thursday.  It's called a Bike & Ride Plaza, and it's supposed to encourage citizens to ride their bike and use the El Metro bus when going on about their business.

The nifty bus stop is located on Zacatecas, near the fire station and recreation center.  (Cigarroa HS is within walking distance.)


The building that used to house the former Santo Nino branch library is across the street from the Bike & Ride Plaza.  It was renovated last year.  The district's councilman said, during Thursday's presser, that the facility would be used as a WIC clinic.  For now it sits empty.

And that's south Laredo for you.  

Monday, May 1, 2017

It'll Be A While

Jerry Garza and Ann Hutyra spoke to local attorney David Almaraz on 'Beyond the Headlines' (KGNS) yesterday.  Mr. Almaraz is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney.  He added some context to the FBI raids that occurred last week:  

Initially, the federal agencies, in this case the FBI, get information that something, possibly illegal, is going on.  So they send some agents to start working on it.  In this case, probably, if you go back six months and maybe even a year, it's very possible that the agents talked to somebody, maybe a whistle blower.  And many times, in cases like this, they will actually bring in somebody and interview them.  They'll take them to the Shiloh building, and say, 'look, we have information that we think shows that you've been doing something illegal.  You want to tell us about it?'  And at that point they become what they call cooperating individuals.  They'll start telling the FBI what they know, what they suspect.  

This doesn't happen just overnight.

By the time they got to this search warrant, they had to have an affidavit signed by, probably, an FBI agent.  I've seen these affidavits; they could be five, ten, fifteen pages long.  In that affidavit, the federal agent tries to tell the federal judge, the magistrate who's going to sign the search warrant, a little bit about him, or her, what their experience is with this type of alleged public corruption case.  And at some point, they have to prove to a judge - a judge is not going to sign a search warrant on city hall or the county judge or the county courthouse based on hearsay.  They have to be pretty sure what they're looking for.  And so, that is how I believe this search warrant was issued.

They have to have probable cause in front of you.  And the judge will say, I need to have very good probable cause before I sign this.  Why?  Because it's very unusual for agents to actually raid a city hall anywhere, or a county courthouse anywhere, and actually shut down business for that day.

I have not seen or heard of anything like this before, at least here in Texas.  It's possible it has happened, but for them to hit two entities, a city and a county place of business, the heart of the county and the heart of the city, it's not common at all.

Mr. Almaraz found it odd that the names of local elected officials were released to the media.  Right now they are just "target subjects."  It's not until an actual indictment is handed down, or an arrest is made, that names are revealed to the public.  It may be that the charges filed by the FBI, and list of public officials, was leaked.

The next step, according to Almaraz, is for the FBI to present their findings to the Department of Justice.  But first they have to sift through the evidence they've collected.  This process may take months.  The FBI has to build their case, and then decide which officials to focus their attention on.  It may be that only several of those on the FBI's case will actually face an indictment.

It could be years before we see any arrests.

        
(Photo courtesy of El Manana)

Beyond the Headlines contributor Sergio Mora pointed to the powerful image of the FBI truck parked outside city hall on Wednesday.  Mayor Pete Saenz called the situation embarrassing.  The downtown facility, among other places, was locked down that day.  Agents were seen going back and forth, taking what they needed.

The same scene was playing out at Dannenbaum Engineering offices in Laredo and throughout Texas.

Local leaders addressed the matter on Wednesday afternoon.  List of names or not, Laredoans would've suspected the worst.  What we do now is just sit and wait until the investigation is carried out.  We have a better sense of what transpired last week, but it'll be a long while before the truth comes out.