Former El Paso city official awaiting presidential appointment to IBWC
by David Crowder
Posted on October 8, 2009
A former public works director for the city of El Paso, Ed Drusina, is in line to become the next commissioner of the troubled International Boundary and Water Commission.
A variety of sources have confirmed that Drusina is under consideration and awaiting a presidential appointment to the position now headed by interim Commissioner C.W. “Bill” Ruth.
Newspaper Tree has been told that Ruth, a Bush appointee from the small town of La Feria in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, will officially leave around Jan. 1, making way for Drusina.
Ruth was on leave and unavailable for comment Wednesday.
If appointed, Drusina would be the fourth El Pasoan in a row to serve as commissioner of the federal agency headquartered in El Paso that is responsible for the maintenance of the nation’s borders and the Rio Grande boundary.
Drusina, 57, is a graduate of Burges High School and holds an engineering degree from the University of Texas at El Paso.
Until recently, he was president of OMNI Construction Services LLC, a subsidiary of the El Paso engineering and construction firm, Moreno Cardenas Inc. While with Moreno Cardenas, the company reported, Drusina was construction manager for over $28 million of infrastructure construction associated with El Paso Water Utilities’ desalination plant.
He is now the El Paso area director for Paragon Project Resources Inc., a national engineering firm with offices in El Paso.
Mayor John Cook was the first to publicly confirm Drusina is under consideration for the IBWC appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation.
“I don’t know if it’s official, but yes, I’ve known for about a week and a half,” Cook said Wednesday. “Ed told me he was looking for this six months ago and that he was in the mix with a dozen names.
“He wanted my support. I did send a personal letter of recommendation, having worked with him since 1999.
As a city representative before becoming mayor, Cook worked with Drusina from the time former Mayor Carlos Ramirez – who went on to become IBWC commissioner – appointed him public works director in 1999 until Drusina resigned as deputy chief administrative officer under former mayor Joe Wardy in 2004.
“He is very professional,” Cook said. “I looked at him as a straight-shooter who was very candid and very knowledgeable.”
Confirmation of the possible appointment then came from the office of U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, and from Drusina himself.
“He is under consideration,” Reyes’ spokesman Vince Perez said. “Congressman Reyes actually sent a letter of support on his behalf.”
Drusina said he knows he is on a very short list for the job.
“If this goes through that would be an interesting and exciting position to take,” he said.
Previous boundary commissioners have had known political connections. But whatever ties Drusina has are not generally known, and he did not wish to discuss politics.
“He never told me who was in his corner,” Cook said. “I said I would be, but I don’t think I have much pull with the president.”
As mayor, Ramirez campaigned for former Gov. Bush when he ran for president and was rewarded with the IBWC appointment after became president in 2001.
Ramirez was incapacitated by a rare brain disease and was forced to resign as commissioner in 2003. He succeeded that year by Arturo “Turi” Duran, who was close to Bush's friend Adair Margo.
The boundary commission suffered from a lack of leadership during Ramirez’s protracted illness, and things at the agency became worse after Duran’s appointment.
Bush asked Duran to step down in 2005 after a near uprising by IWBC employees sparked an investigation by the State Department’s Office of Inspector General, which resulted in a scathing report and recommendations for massive reforms and reorganization.
Carlos Marin, a career IWBC employee, served as the interim commissioner after Duran’s departure and was appointed commissioner by Bush in 2006.
Marin died in a plane crash on the Mexican side of the border on Sept. 15, 2008 along with his Mexican IBWC counterpart, Arturo Herrera, and Jake Brisbin, head of the Rio Grande Council of Governments.
The three officials were inspecting levee and flood conditions on the Rio Grande near Presidio during a fierce thunderstorm when their plane went down in rugged mountains just south of the border.
Ruth was named interim commissioner in November and the agency now under investigation again by the State Department’s OIG.
The latest investigation, which opened last week, may have come as a result detailed complaints lodged with the OIG in July by IBWC’s top lawyer, Consul General Robert McCarthy, alleging waste, fraud and abuse at the agency.
In his complaint, McCarthy called for Ruth’s removal. Ruth fired him three days later.
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To reach David Crowder, write to email@example.com or call (915) 351-0605, ext. 30, or 630-6622.
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