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City of Presidio abolishes Nieto’s job

July 13th, 2017 under Top Stories
(photo by ELVIRA LARA) Presidio Mayor John Ferguson speaks at Wednesday's special city council meeting regarding the termination of Carlos Nieto's special projects coordinator position with the City of Presidio.

(photo by ELVIRA LARA)
Presidio Mayor John Ferguson speaks at Wednesday’s special city council meeting regarding the termination of Carlos Nieto’s special projects coordinator position with the City of Presidio.

Ponton new Presidio city attorney

By ELVIRA LARA

PRESIDIO — The Presidio City Council held a special meeting last Wednesday to discuss pressing city matters, including the termination of Carlos Nieto’s employment as special projects coordinator.

The decision came a week after the FBI arrested Nieto and Presidio County Commissioner Lorenzo Hernandez on federal bribery charges.

Nieto was an employee of the city for eight years, leading up to his arrest. He served as a consultant and advocate for the community’s needs and city projects. The night of the meeting, his employment was terminated following the council’s decision to do away with his position.

“As per action taken by the city council tonight, the position no longer is in existence, so therefore Mr. Nieto no longer has a position to be employed with,” determined Mayor John Ferguson upon returning from closed session. “I think a lot of people are demanding some transparency, some accountability from the City of Presidio. We want to give it to them.”

According to councilman Samuel Carrasco, the position was terminated because of changes in administration, not due to the recent events incriminating Nieto. The topic had been discussed before in an attempt to cut spending and alleviate the city’s budget.

“The position was no longer needed. It’s something that was put on the table as far as not really benefiting the city of Presidio because it was more meant to be an at-will position,” explained Carrasco. “Basically with all the audits that the city has been doing and the restructuring, putting it all together again to fix what’s been broken, what’s not delivering, I think this position factored in.”

Nieto was hired as a part-time employee in October 2009. The position of projects coordinator was created to employ Nieto’s consultation services. His work consisted of lobbying for the community and using his connections to bring services to Presidio. “Mr. Nieto knows a lot of people so it was felt at the time he had a great deal to offer with his contacts,” explained Mayor Ferguson.

Last October, Nieto’s employment transitioned to full-time and his salary increased to $47,000 a year. New guidelines set by the Obama administration, according to Ferguson, determined the increase in Nieto’s salary. However, he had no office hours nor did he report to city hall like a regular employee.

“There was concern about Mr. Nieto being accountable,” said Ferguson. “He was doing his thing and I think that’s one of the concerns people raised.”

With no proof of work hours it’s difficult to justify Nieto’s employment. It’s also unclear what he accomplished during his time as Special Projects Coordinator. Nieto worked on assignments as needed, reporting to the mayor and city council when requested. “He was more of an advocate for the city, helping us with whatever we were trying to do to help the city,” said Ferguson.

As a full-time employee, Nieto benefited from health insurance, workers’ compensation, life insurance, and retirement services. He was entitled to four hours of leave per pay period and paid vacation time. He did not hold a city credit card, but all his travel expenses were covered, including access to city vehicles, mileage reimbursement, lodging, and an $80 per diem.

Last Wednesday night the council voted unanimously to abolish the Special Projects Coordinator position. Mayor Ferguson wrapped up the discussion by saying, “I think we’re all in agreement that we can get the work done if that position is no longer in existence, we can still get the city’s work done.”

With the position terminated, new monies will be available for other city needs. Councilman Carrasco wants the funds to be used wisely and transparently for the benefit of the community.

“I would like it to be inclusive, not just spreading the wealth around just because. Where is the money needed? Why is it needed?” said Carrasco. “It has to provide some kind of enjoyment by the city itself, something productive, something that people will use, not only us. From the small ones to the elderly.”

Budget meetings are being held regularly to prepare for the upcoming fiscal year in October. The council and city administrator Portillo will discuss how to best allocate the freed up monies to improve the community’s well being.

In other city council action, the special meeting also served as an opportunity to hire a new attorney for the City of Presidio. Rod Ponton, newly elected county attorney, was hired to provide counsel regarding city matters effective immediately. He was present during the discussion to terminate Nieto’s position.

“I think we can all work together to try to make sure that everybody both in this community and in West Texas and in the state recognizes that Presidio’s a city that’s going to work hard to do everything transparently, honestly, with good accountability and that we’ll move forward to make this city a better place,” said Ponton in response to the events that took place that evening.

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