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City's real estate consultant says membership in Paso Del Norte Group not conflict of interest

By Darren Hunt, DHuntabc7@yahoo.com
Published On: Oct 04 2012 02:52:08 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 07 2014 12:07:39 PM CST

ABC-7's Darren Hunt reports.

EL PASO, Texas -

Connections between the Paso Del Norte Group and projects such as the Downtown ballpark and the upcoming quality of life bond election were brought up Tuesday during a discussion about the relocation of El Paso City Hall.

City Rep. Emma Acosta said it pointed to a possible conflict of interest because the City's real estate consultant is a member of the Paso Del Norte Group and the El Paso Tomorrow PAC pushing the bond.

While Russ Vandenburg is a member of the PDNG, he is not a member of El Paso Tomorrow.

"He was one of the ones identified as being the top person that was out there promoting the quality of life bonds," Acosta said of Vandenburg, CEO of TVO North America, the city's real estate consultant

But City Manager Joyce Wilson quickly pointed out he is not a member of the El Paso Tomorrow PAC.

"This gentleman, our agents, have no active involvement with El Paso Tomorrow," Wilson said.

Acosta was still concerned that Vandenburg could benefit in some way if the bond election passes because huge amounts of property would have to be acquired for projects.

After the meeting, an agitated Wilson was quick to further clarify that being a member of the Paso Del Norte Group is not a conflict of interest.

"You know why there are concerns is because you all run out and do all these stories about all these people in PDN like it's some covert operation," Wilson told ABC-7. "The reality is it's a civic organization. It's a public civic organization with membership and dues."

Wilson referred to a previous ABC-7 story regarding the PDNG's support of the bond and the baseball stadium. To watch the original ABC-7 story, click here. That story never identified Vandenburg as a member of the El Paso Tomorrow PAC. That allegation was made by Rep. Acosta at Tuesday's meeting.

Wilson compared the PDNG to being a member of a chamber of commerce.

"If you're affiliated with the chamber of commerce or the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are you under a microscope? I mean, that's ridiculous. These organizations exist all over the country and they do very good work for their respective communities."

Vandenburg said "I would never do anything to jeopardize anything I'm doing for the city."

He went on to say he has no conflict of interest in serving as the City's real estate consultant.

"I don't own anything Downtown," Vandenburg said. "I belong to the PDN group and that's about it. I benefit zero except being able to go ta ballgame and have a hot dog and watch a baseball game. That's the only benefit I get out of it."

City Rep. Cortney Niland pointed out during the discussion how baseball team investors Paul Foster and Woody Hunt, who also happen to be PDNG members, have been "crucified" during the ballpark debate.

Vandenburg said all PDNG members are concerned about is the city's progress and not benefiting personally from those decisions.

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