Remember that the
At the November meeting of the PSB, both EPWU Attorney Bob Andron and Chairman Schoephoerster claimed that there is a distinction between elected officials and appointed officials. They were attempting to rebut the argument that, since any City Council representative can speak to the press at any time, their appointments can do the same. Unfortunately, the interpretation of law says quite the opposite.
First, the IRS makes no distinction between elected and appointed officials. In their document on classification of elected and appointed officials they give this list of examples:
"Examples of public officers are: the President and the Vice President; a governor or mayor; the secretary of state; a member of a legislative body, such as a state legislature, county commission, city counsel, school board, utility or hospital district; a judge, a justice of the peace, a county or city attorney, a marshal, a sheriff, a constable and a registrar of deeds; tax collectors and assessors; and members of advisory boards and committees."
The emphases are mine but you get the point.
Now read about municipal judges in Texas here. It reveals: "Most municipal judges are appointed by the governing body of the municipality (e.g., a city council), although a few are elected." In El Paso County we elect our municipal judges; but we are the exception not the rule. Whether appointed or elected, municipal judges have the same duties and responsibilities and are held to the same standards.
It is ridiculous to believe that PSB members, because they are appointed, should have a different relationship and interface with the public and the media. The real issue here is a little thing called the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States which guarantees freedom of speech and press.
There is still one final reason why we must make sure that our PSB members are not gagged by the Shoephoerster-Andron Gag Rule (which I will henceforth call it). The PSB has a unique relationship with the citizens and City of El Paso. They are not just in charge of water and stormwater utilities. We have empowered them with the management of our land. Our Land - not anyone else's land and they are fiduciaries of it. In and of itself, this managerial responsibility of our land means that they are directly responsible not just to City Council but to you and to me, citizens of the City of El Paso. We should expect our land managers to have every right to speak out to the press and to us and not to be hampered by a gag rule.
Dr. Bonart has written a more positive policy - a real communications policy. Read it. It needs some tweaking but it is will lead to transparent governance and land management and not to good-old-boy style of internal control such as the one that has long been in place at the PSB/EPWU. One that operates behind closed doors in total disregard of the public and operates in a paternalistic, oligarchic style.
The Communications Committee will meet this Monday, December 2, 2013, at 1:30 p.m. at the El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board Meeting Room, 1154 Hawkins Boulevard, El Paso, Texas to deliberate on the proposed Shoephoerster-Andron Gag Rule or to serve the public and recommend one more like Bonart's. This is a public meeting. Please attend if you can.