Cobos might not resign, but Perez apparently will
by David Crowder
Posted on December 11, 2008
El Paso County Judge Anthony Cobos may not be resigning, but Jaime O. Perez, his chief of staff for the past year, apparently is.
This letter from Perez went out to various news outlets Wednesday:
“I greatly appreciate the opportunity provided to me by County Judge Anthony Cobos and will serve until he can find a replacement. It has been an honor to be serving the residents of El Paso County. In addition, I appreciate the staff, department heads and elected officials with whom I had the privilege of working."
Perez, who has run for mayor twice before, also indicated he may be mounting his own campaign for city representative or helping someone else’s election campaign against city Rep. Steve Ortega.
“It is too early to make a formal announcement. I have put together an exploratory committee and will consider their opinion relative to the feasibility of running for that office. I am also visiting with various former and potential current candidates to assess their views and intentions.
“Finally, I am visiting with potential supporters to determine the cost of such a race and the viability of fundraising necessary to undertake a credible and serious race."
Perez, a former El Paso Community College instructor who also worked in the offices of city Rep. Eddie Holguin and of former city Rep. Alexandro Lozano, was hired by Cobos after his former chief of staff, Travis Ketner, resigned in May 2007 soon after FBI agents executed search warrants on the courthouse offices of Cobos and county Commissioners Miguel Teran and Luis Sarinana.
Then, in June 2007, Ketner became the first person to plead guilty to public corruption charges involving bribery and conspiracy. In his plea document, known as an information, Ketner implicated Cobos and others in public office and business.
Since then, eight others, including former county Commissioner Betti Flores, have pleaded guilty to public corruption charges and three individuals have been indicted in the ongoing federal investigation.
More recently, Perez figured in the heavily publicized rumors that Cobos might resign from office.
Perez requested a legal opinion – either at Cobos' request or without his knowledge, their respective accounts conflict – from County Attorney Jose Rodriguez concerning the resignation of a county judge and the appointment of a successor by Commissioners Court.
Perez is also reported to have initiated arrangements at the courthouse for Cobos’ possible departure.
At a press conference Wednesday, Cobos said he had no intention of resigning and accused Newspaper Tree and the El Paso Times of conspiring independently against him.
Jaime Perez has a long political history in El Paso. He ran for mayor in the 1980s against Jonathan Rogers, and worked on the campaigns of many public figures, including the City Council runs of now-Commissioner Luis Sarinana.
In 2000, Sun Circle, one of many companies registered at the time by Perez, received a contract for consulting work for Life Management Center. A series of documents were compiled by the State of Texas in its audit of the Life Management Center -- El Paso's only public psychiatric hospital -- in 2000. Those documents raised question about the work done under the contract. [background]
Around that time, he also formed a group called Citizens for Good Government, which was active during the term of Mayor Ray Caballero. That group primarily worked on tax rollback and tax freeze issues, two issues Perez has consistently championed through the years. He also worked on several rollback efforts. [perez interview, part 1] [perez interview, part 2]
Perez also worked on recall initiatives, including one against then-city Rep. Larry Medina. [background]
His activities during the rollback efforts led to a lawsuit, Medina v. Perez et. al. [background]
That lawsuit was dismissed, according to the county’s case search. [link]
That recall effort was linked to Perez's activities in opposing a Tax Increment Finance district planned for the area around Thomason. That issue, and other elements of the long-running political battle in which Perez has engaged, is recounted in this Texas Observer article. [link]
Perez went to work at City Hall in 2003, worked for a brief time in the administration of Joe Wardy, then left the city. He came back in 2005, splitting his time between representatives Eddie Holguin and Alexandro Lozano. [background]
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