Yesterday the day finally came when a couple of our local leaders who have played loose and fast with ethics got picked up and charged by the FBI.
Within this blog anyone can get a pretty good idea of the roles these two men have played within the County. Carlos Nieto is reminiscent to me as Presidio County's near equivalent to Harris County's Billy Burge; always present over the years, often appointed to various positions, well-connected, reviled by many, respected by others.
Carlos and I have a fundamentally different way of operating, and are often, but not always, at odds. Just his past Tuesday at the PIPA meeting in Presidio he told me I "need to calm down on that stuff" when we in the room were discussing an incident where I had called out Commissioner Hernandez on something I saw as an ethical lapse (which in that case was more of a matter of circumstance than of substance). I told Carlos, "I don't know how to calm down, I was born this way." That being said, I have never trusted Carlos Nieto and believe him to be the grifter that he is accused of being. Citizens who still wish to think of him as their mini-patron should keep in mind that he is accused of selling you out for a mere $8,300.00.
Commissioner Hernandez and I have had a pretty good working relationship, but at times I have questioned not so much his motives but his ethical purity. In this matter, the notes (and also the official minutes) of the meeting where he voted to approve the County contract with the firm he is accused of soliciting bribes reflect my calling him out on what I had already heard was a direct conflict of interest between him and the firm. He vehemently denied any conflict when I told him point blank that if I found out there was one I would expose it, and publicly. I did not have to in this case, much to my surprise. The accusation of him soliciting this bribe surprises me a bit, but I can't say that his taking the money does, and I wish I could. The way in which he and Nieto did this deal, though, was ridiculously sloppy and amateurish.
Anyway, I am greatly disappointed in both of these men, and where there's smoke there's fire.
I can't believe this is will be the end of indictments for officials in this area; I am sure there will be more. I fully support the cleaning up of corruption, and this is a good start.
With regard to the future for both Carlos and Lorenzo, they should both resign from all their public positions for the betterment and preservation of the integrity of the institutions they are a part of. Resigning now would help rebuild the citizens' confidence in those institutions and allow new, untarnished leadership to emerge. I understand that each is innocent until proven guilty, and that is true, but a true public servant would put the public service entity's future over self in every case.
In any case, resignations should be sought from Carlos for his Presidio Independent School District school board seat, his job at the City of Presidio as "Special Projects Manager" and any affiliation he has with the Presidio Municipal Development District. Lorenzo should resign as County Commissioner immediately and also from his seat as Vice President of the Presidio International Port Authority. If he is still affiliated with the Presidio Municipal Development District he should sever all ties. As far as his job at the school district, the PISD board should deliberate carefully on whether he should remain on campus as a role model.
It is now more important than ever for citizens to report anything they may know about crooked deals by our leaders in all agencies. It is also important for a new leadership group to emerge with a new commitment to success through ethics and transparency. And that group of younger, better and more honest leadership needs to come together now.
Anyone may report incidents regarding Presidio County or related corruption without fear of being retaliated against by contacting the FBI at (915) 835-5000.
David Beebe, Justice of the Peace, Precinct One