El Paso’s Financial Oversight and Audit Committee (FOAC) held a special meeting to discuss excessive fuel spending by council members.

The city’s Chief Internal Auditor Edmundo Calderon received a tip about suspicious spending by two city council members in November 2022.

His audit showed that District 3 Representative Cassandra Hernandez spent $6,691 on her city-issued, taxpayer-funded fuel card last year. Thus far in 2023, Hernandez has spent $1,583.87 in taxpayer funds just from January 1 to April 30.

In the committee meeting, Calderon reviewed fuel-related spending from all city representatives but focused on Hernandez’ use of the card.

The report describes several instances where Hernandez and her husband appear on camera purchasing fuel from DK Convenience stores. Footage released to the media, and analyzed by Calderon, shows Hernandez used her card to fuel more than one vehicle.

Both Hernandez’ white van and her husband’s gray Toyota Tacoma appear on the stores’ security cameras.

The City of El Paso’s Commercial Fuel Card Policy and Use Procedures’ Section 1 states, “Each fuel card will be assigned to a specific city vehicle and city employee and is to be used exclusively for that vehicle by that employee for official city business.”

In May, Hernandez told ABC-7 she was the only person to use the gas card, but when confronted with the excessive sum spent, she decided to pay $6,700 back to the city.

“My voluntary repayment demonstrates my commitment to protecting the interests of El Paso tax payers and the City,” said Hernandez. “It is disappointing that the auditor’s report continues to demonstrate flawed auditing practices that fail to follow basic standard auditing procedures, which have been outlined in the May 1 and June 5, 2023 Commercial Fuel Card Review. Moreover, there are political motivations at play that detracts from a fair and objective audit process.”

While Hernandez repaid the city for her 2022 spending, she has yet to address her continued unlawful spending.

Hernandez is not the only one found to be at fault. The 2022 audit reported that former District 6 City Representative Claudia Rodriguez spent $5,294 on her fuel card.

Together, Hernandez and Rodriguez made up 60 percent of fuel spending among the eight council members and mayor.

El Paso Times reported that Rodriguez maintained she would only repay the $5,294 if it could be proven she did something wrong.

To show unreasonable spending, Calderon’s report compares Hernandez and Rodriguez to council members from District 1 and District 7, who did not spend any money on their taxpayer-funded fuel card during this time.

At the FOAC meeting, Calderon said he plans to audit both 2020 and 2021.

Valerie Muñoz

Valerie Muñoz is a native South Texan and student at Texas A&M University, where she studies journalism. She is passionate about delivering clear and comprehensive news to Texans.