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KFOX14 Investigates: City Council approves reimbursing city manager’s legal fees

City Manager Tommy Gonzalez

The city of El Paso will give City Manager Tommy Gonzalez $60,000 for legal fees. The fees stem from a 2016 ethics investigation

“To disregard a thorough investigation is disrespectful to that (ethics) commission, as well as the public,” said city Rep. Cassandra Hernandez.

Gonzalez shoot his head during a special City Council meeting Thursday as Hernandez laid out why she was the only one to vote against reimbursing his legal fees.

Hernandez added it was not the best use of tax dollars and believes Gonzalez received due process in the 2016 ethics investigation, which looked into his decision to place speed humps on Stanton . The investigation looked at whether Gonzalez followed city policy and whether the speed humps were placed on Stanton as a favor to former city Rep. Larry Romero, who resigned.

“I think that the council saw the facts, and the facts were that all policies were followed,” Gonzalez said after the council voted to reimburse his fees for attorney Jim Darnell.

On Thursday, Mayor Dee Margo explained Gonzalez chose Darnell because he thought he was approved by the city, given that the police department was utilizing Darnell for representation.

These are legal fees Gonzalez asked for when negotiating his new five-year contract. While ultimately not in his contract, that new contract allows for legal reimbursements.

Outside legal counsel was present Thursday to explain how, under Texas law, the city manager is able to recoup these attorney fees.

The mayor said the fees should have been paid for to begin with.

“It’s a fairness issue. He had full authority to put speed cushions down Stanton, we verified that. His commitment and worth to this community has been significant. (The) council is pleased with how things are going,” said Margo.

Gonzalez says the reimbursement was important to him.

“I’m not going to allow a false narrative about myself. I’ve got two young men that my wife and I are raising. I want to show them a good example. I have my father’s name to live up to, so it’s important to me. It should be important to this community who's leading this community,” said Gonzalez.

KFOX14 asked Gonzalez if it's financially responsible for the city to repay him.

“Absolutely, absolutely. I think the irresponsibility was spending $100,000 proving nothing,” said Gonzalez.

The ethics commission spent $100,000 investigating these claims in 2016.

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