For the second time in two weeks, Mayor Oscar Leeser has vetoed City Manager Tommy Gonzalez’s contract extension. 

Leeser filed the veto Thursday, canceling the contract extension approved by City Council on Monday, May 24.

Asked why he issued the second veto, Leeser told El Paso Matters, “It’s just that we currently have a current contract and at the time when it would be good to renew and negotiate the contract, we’ll do it at that time. But again, it has nothing to do with his performance at all.”

Leeser said he has been approached by multiple people and constituents since the contract was extended to 2029 this week. Gonzalez’s contract expires in 2024.

Leeser said he is not sure if he will have enough votes to sustain the veto. At least three of the eight city representatives would have to vote in favor of the veto to make it stand. That means at least one of the six council members who supported Monday’s contract extension would have to change their vote. 

“I haven’t talked to the council on it,” Leeser said. “I hope, and I think, I will have the support to uphold the veto (because) it’s very important and I know that the community is behind it.”

This move mirrors that of last week when Leeser vetoed the contract extension that the City Council approved on May 16 after it was announced that Gonzalez was a finalist for the city manager position in Frisco, Texas. Gonzalez withdrew as a finalist from Frisco after the council voted to extend his contract.

The council, in an effort to sway Gonzalez to stay in El Paso, also included a clause in that May 16 vote that would have allowed the city to possibly raise his salary up to $450,000. 

His contract currently pays him $404,377 a year. 

During the Monday, May 24 meeting, City Council dropped a discussion to override Leeser’s first veto. Instead, it voted to extend the contract without the clause that would have allowed them to raise his salary up to $450,000. 

Gonzalez’s contract still includes provisions for merit increases and other future pay raises.

That amended contract extension passed with a 6-2 vote. City Rep. Claudia Rodriguez, who had opposed the previous contract extension and possible pay raise, voted in favor of Monday’s contract extension.

Rodriguez could not immediately be reached for comment.

City Reps. Alexsandra Annello and Joe Molinar voted both times against the contract extension.

In his filing of the veto, Leeser cites that the city manager has a current contract that was renewed in 2019 and doesn’t expire until 2024.

“It is 2022 and therefore premature to renew or extend his contract,” Leeser states. “While the extension that was voted by City Council includes the current terms of the City Manager’s employment agreement, the fact remains that there is a current contract in place that does not require negotiation at this time.”

Leeser also said he received overwhelming feedback from constituents against an extension. 

“I thoughtfully considered whether to veto this item, but the fact remains that nothing has changed since last week,” Leeser said, reiterating that the city manager’s performance has no bearing on the decision. “When it is time to renegotiate his contract, that renegotiation will happen in good faith.”

The council is not scheduled to meet again until June 6. A special meeting would have to be called in order to overturn the mayor’s veto before the next scheduled council meeting.

Elida S. Perez is a longtime community and investigative reporter. Her experience includes work as city government watchdog reporter for the El Paso Times, investigative reporter for El Paso Newspaper...

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