El Paso, TEXAS - The deadline has come and gone for Emergency Services District No. 2, a conglomerate of taxpayer-funded volunteer fire departments in El Paso County, to file its required yearly audit for the past fiscal year.
On June 4, 2012 ESD No. 2 filed for a 30-day extension, three days after the June 1 deadline. That extension was granted, but County Judge Veronica Escobar made comments at the time that she expected the audit to be revealing.
Since the extension was filed, the El Paso County Sheriff's Department has opened an investigation into ESD No. 2 President Carlos Sandoval and former Commissioner Robert Ostrenga. One of those cases is expected to land in the District Attorney's Office shortly while the other investigation continues.
While the investigation into the two men involved in ESD No. 2 continues, the audit has not been delivered. When ABC-7 alerted ESD No. 2 members by email, only one member responded: Bill Adler, the West Valley fire chief who serves as ESD No. 2's vice president.
"Frankly, I think if it's taken this long, there may be some issues there. I don't know," said Escobar.
According to Adler, the holdup lies with the San Elizario Volunteer Fire Department. Adler tells ABC-7 he believes it will take an additional two weeks to finish their audit, at which point the rest of the audit can be completed.
Once ABC-7 alerted the county judge and members of ESD No. 2 of the second missed deadline, it was made known the entity plans to file for a second extension.
The state of Texas does not impose penalties for missed deadlines. However, the county is allowed to. In this case, Escobar said she doesn't believe any punishment would be levied, pointing out that it would only delay the unveiling of an audit she, and many others, are looking forward to reading.
Escobar did say she's upset the audit has taken so long and added that she hopes the new processes started this year by County Commissioners Court will allow for better timelines in the future. Escobar painted a picture where Adler, the lone ESD No. 2 member to respond to media inquiries, is the only commissioner working with her office to make sure things continue to run smoothly. It's part of the reason Escobar initiated rules where the Commissioners Court can now remove members and is required to approve each member of ESD boards moving forward.
She also has said she intends to reach out to the state in an effort to create legislation that would give Commissioners Court budget approval over ESD No. 1 and 2 similar to how they govern University Medical Center.
"It would give us that added layer of accountability, make the ESDs come to Commissioners Court for approval," said Escobar.