Sunday, January 19, 2020

San Angelo's Former Elected Police Chief Charged with Bribery

The Department of Justice press release stated:

Timothy Ray Vasquez, 49, was charged Wednesday with one count of receipt of a bribe by an agent of an organization receiving federal funds and three counts of honest services mail fraud.

“We must insist that law enforcement leaders personify integrity,” said U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox. “Former Chief Vasquez abused his office for personal financial gain. We are determined to root out corruption wherever we find it. Public officials cannot be allowed to violate their sacred trusts.”

“The defendant manipulated a government procurement process to personally profit for years. This abuse of power affected a system that is supposed to be fair and unbiased,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Office Matthew J. DeSarno. “Public corruption is one of the FBI’s top investigative priorities. We will continue to hold elected officials accountable for violating the trust of their constituents.”

According to the indictment, Mr. Vasquez allegedly used his official position to help a radio system vendor land two government contracts worth more than $11 million. In return, the vendor and its affiliates allegedly funneled him and his band, “Funky Munky,” more than $130,000.
City records show Council's actions on the updated radio system in late 2014-mid 2015.

Vasquez presented the item alongside IT's Bucky Hasty to City Council on June 2, 2015 when Council approved over $5.7 million for the purchase of the P25 radio system upgrade.

The city did not bid the P25 radio system, a $6 million capital budget item.

The city did bid the CAD-Records Management-Mobile Computing system during the same time period.  The city later sued Spillman Technologies for $3.5 million for fraudulently representing the system's performance.

Vasquez' indictment noted his ill gotten gains as the initial radio system was wearing out:

By 2015, Mr. Vasquez and Funky Money had collected more than $84,000, including $38,200 the defendant deposited directly into his personal bank account and $29,800 he withdrew in cash.
To keep the cash train going Vasquez needed vendor Daily and Wells Communications Inc. to win the new contract.

In an email with city employees, Mr. Vasquez indicated he wanted to “use the same vendor” for the new equipment, and urged the City Manager to support Vendor 1. In another email with a city employee, he discussed an exemption from the competitive bidding process that would allow San Angelo to award the contract to Vendor 1.
Following a presentation made by then-Chief Vasquez and another employee, San Angelo awarded a new $5.7 million contract to Vendor 1 in June 2015. 
Council approved Chief Vasquez' recommendation on June 2, 2015.

In total, Mr. Vasquez and Funky Munky received at least $134,000 from Vendor 1 and its affiliates, including at least $88,200 he deposited into his personal bank account and $29,800 he withdrew in cash.

The public deserves information on how the former Police Chief manipulated a government procurement process to personally profit for years.  

Update 3-24-22:  Tim Vasquez trial is underway in Lubbock, TX. 

Update3-27-22:  Former Police Chief Tim Vasquez was convicted of accepting bribes from the city's emergency communications vendor.

Friday, January 17, 2020

PAWS Changing of Guard at ASAC

San Angelo's Animal Services Advisory Committee will continue to have two board members that work for adoption services/veterinary contractor Concho Valley PAWS.  PAWS Executive Director Jenie Wilson will no longer oversee herself as of the end of January 2020.  PAWS Assistant Director Jen Murphy will take over her boss' slot, providing public oversight to Mrs. Wilson, the person who conducts Murphy's performance evaluation.

The two PAWS board slots combined with two City staff slots gives this combination a majority vote on any ASAC agenda item.  Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden provides public oversight for herself.  Health Department Director Sandra Villareal fills the other staff ASAC board seat.  Villareal previously oversaw the Animal Shelter and once referred to following nuisance animal ordinances as "the red tape way."

Not mentioned in today's Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting:  1)  Ordinance updates planned for November 2019 (but later cancelled) and 2) Draft adoption services/veterinary care RFP (with broadened scope of services and full fiduciary responsibilities).

PAWS Veterinarian and ASAC member Dr. Victor Schultze missed his third meeting in a row, which could trigger discussion of his removal if all were unexcused.

PAWS new building next to the Animal Shelter is underway.  There is no official opening date in any of the Standard Times or San Angelo Live news articles published to date.

Citizens who read the news were told not to take pets to the shelter in November 2019.  The articles did not come from the city's juggernaut Public Information Office and the city claimed to not know the source of the articles, which quoted PAWS Executive Director Jenie Wilson.  This was not the first time the city and PAWS were on different public relations pages.

Yesterday the Animal Services Advisory Board celebrated the reduction of animals taken into the shelter from October-December 2019 and corresponding declines in euthanasia.  Pets Alive policies constrain a citizen's ability to surrender their pet via managed intake and encourage managed intake of unowned pets.  In addition PAWS steered citizens away from the shelter with their "Shelter is Full" public relations campaign. 

The City of San Angelo does not allow a citizen to surrender their pet due to owner illness, health decline or death.  Moving out of town is not a reason that allows an owner to surrender their pet at the Animal Shelter.   The only two reasons a pet can be immediately surrendered at the shelter are aggression to humans residing in the home and natural disaster.

The City does not allow adopters to return their pet to the Animal Shelter under managed intake, instead steering them to pet rescues other than Concho Valley PAWS (the contracted adoption coordinator).  Area rescues have seen owner surrenders from Shelter adopters soar since the city began "managed intake."  Many of these surrenders have been unaltered, a violation of city ordinance.

PAWS Director Jenie Wilson told the ASAC in October 2019 she had compliance data on shelter pets meeting the spay/neuter ordinance but a December public information request had the city claiming no such document exists.  Standard contract language on the city's purchasing website addresses public information, ownership of documents and the city's right to ensure a contractor meets applicable regulations.  Apparently none of these terms apply to Concho Valley PAWS.

A PAWS for PAWS exchange is coming to the oversight board, courtesy of City Council.   It will occur this coming Tuesday.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

City Staff/Contractors Control Public Animal Services Board

The City of San Angelo updated its website for the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee (ASAC).  Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden has the unique role of providing oversight to herself, as do PAWS Director Jenie Wilson and PAWS Veterinarian Dr. Victor Shultze.  PAWS is the shelter contractor for adoption and veterinary services.

City Health Director Sandra Villareal formerly oversaw the Animal Shelter.  Years ago she referred to the city following animal ordinances as the "red tape way."  The public board is made of a majority of city staff/contractors who have a pattern of hiding behind one another when asked for basic information about shelter operations (shelter compliance with state law and city ordinances).

PAWS Director Jenie Wilson stated she had compliance data in the September 2019 ASAC meeting but the city had no documents when asked to provide that information.  

The City of San Angelo frequently hides information behind attorney-client privilege, as it did on the appointment of Chegwidden to the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee.  It has asked the Attorney General to withhold an e-mail chain regarding the community cat program, citing attorney-client privilege.  Community Cats is a top four strategy for the shelter under Pets Alive, which encourages shelters to be completely transparent on their operations.  

Transparency is not the city's strong suit in the animal services arena.  City actions do not inspire public confidence that relationships are arm's length and actions are above board.

Update 1-16-20:  The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee met today.   Changes since last year, plus the shelter is full call out by Concho Valley PAWS, reduced intake over 10% for most of the last quarter.  Two of the three pets cited in the update were dogs and both made it back to the shelter since their highlighted adoption/reunion.  The third was a community kitten who grew into a cat.  After a year in the shelter he rules his old neighborhood.  Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden and PAWS Veterinarian Victor Schultze missed today's meeting.  This is the third ASAC meeting in row Dr. Schultze missed.

Update 1-17-20:  City staff nominated Assistant Director for Concho Valley PAWS Jen Murphy to the Animal Services Advisory Committee.   PAWS Executive Director Jenie Wilson's term ends 1-31-20.  I assume this will be a PAWS for PAWS substitution.