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Lawyer files criminal complaint against city manager

By Matthew Smith, Good Morning El Paso Weekend Anchor / Reporter
Published On: Oct 19 2012 06:44:01 PM CDT
Updated On: Jan 14 2014 06:32:05 PM CST

ABC-7s Matthew Smith reports.

El Paso, TEXAS -

Three sentences that were on the city of El Paso website earlier this week have caused quite the stir. In fact, a criminal complaint was filed against City Manager Joyce Wilson this month as a result.

Ray Rojas filed the complaint with the El Paso County attorney on Oct. 8, 2012, according to documents obtained by KVIA.com. However, the lawyer representing Rojas said the ultimate decision on whether the complaint is acted upon will come from the district attorney. Jaime Esparza, El Paso's district attorney, could not be reached to answer how his office was handling the complaint.

The issue stems from wording on the city's website that discussed the Quality of Life bond issues. Quality of Life item No. 3 is tied to the Hotel Occupancy Tax, known as HOT. If approved by voters in November, it would allow for an increase in the HOT to pay for a large portion of the downtown baseball stadium approved by City Council earlier this year.

Rojas' legal complaint focuses on several issues, including three sentences that read: "Please note: Voters will be voting on a two percent (2%) increase in the hotel occupancy tax (HOT) only. Voters will not be voting on the ballpark project itself. An increase in the HOT tax will allow for visitors to pay for the majority of the ballpark project not its residents."

Rojas contends that the note is a false, statement and that it is intended to promote the passage of Proposition 3. The basis of his belief is tied to a municipal law expert from Austin who wrote a legal opinion that the law under which the ballpark is being built requires both the project and the method of funding be approved by voters.

This week, the statement was removed from El Paso's website, however, the city would not offer a representative of the city to sit down and discuss the reasoning. A series of questions were emailed to the city's spokesperson; however, they were not answered. Instead, a response was emailed, stating: "The website was changed on the advice (of) counsel. We are not able to comment on the merits of the complaint, but the City has consulted with legal counsel throughout the process and feel certain all laws have been fully complied with."

According to Bill Aleshire, Rojas' lawyer, the offense would be considered a misdemeanor. He told KVIA.com that he has not heard back from the city at this point.

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