EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Council District 8 Representative Cortney Niland has been noticeably absent from city council since her resignation in April. As two candidates look to fill her seat in a matter of weeks, her lack of attendance is raising questions about how the city representative is able to collect her city salary.
The Texas Holdover clause allows Niland to be paid because she is the city representative until her seat is filled. The city however, maintains the voters, and only the voters who can hold her accountable to her district. Abc-7 reached out to remaining representatives Claudia Ordaz, Peter Svarzbein and Dr. Michiel Noe. Ordaz and Svarzbein did not return requests for comment. Dr. Noe however, tells Abc-7 he believes Niland deserves her city salary.
"Do I think she deserves to stay on like that? Absolutely. Working with her for the last six years, the amount of dedication she's had to the city, the millions of dollars she saved us right off the bat when she first got here with the electric company, that alone. The sacrifices you make to sit on council is not really appreciated by the public at all," Dr. Noe told Abc-7.
Niland has missed 14 special and regular meetings since January, requesting excusal from council for 10 of those. According to city charter, in order for a city representative to be removed from their seat, they must miss three consecutive regular meetings. According to the city's agenda meeting notes, Niland has not. Dr. Noe tells Abc-7, council excused her absences because of her personal issues.
"We all understood that. We tried to respect her privacy in that and we excused her absences," Dr. Noe said.
Her absence does raise a question if the city representative is still living in El Paso as city charter requires city reps to live in their district. When asked if the city knew where Niland was living, the city responded in an email stating: "We do not know where she is living. The holdover law of the Texas Constitution does not allow a position to be vacant, so she is in office until the run-off election on July 15, 2017."
"I haven't spoken to her so I can't say I don't think that she's going to continue to live in El Paso. Whether she's actually moved out now or not, I don't know I haven't spoken to her," Dr. Noe said.
Niland's legislative aid also telling Abc-7 she didn't know where the city representative is living either.
"I've been in contact with her, she's not physically here in the office, but I have been in contact with her," Lindsay Adams said.
Abc-7 has asked the city if there is a mechanism to prove if a city representative is living within their district, a city official responded in an email saying, "The City Clerk's office verifies that the candidate is a registered voter and that they live in the district they're running for at the time the application is filed in the City Clerk's office."