District 5 city Rep. Isabel Salcido used the police chief’s photo on a recent campaign mailer — unbeknownst to him and in possible violation of the Texas Election Code.
Residents in the far Eastside district received the mailer days before an Oct. 24 public safety town hall that Salcido planned with neighboring District 6 city Rep. Claudia Rodriguez, in which El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen had been scheduled to speak. Both representatives are up for reelection on Nov. 8.
Salcido’s mailer featured a photo of Allen in uniform. The Texas Election Code prohibits elected officials from using public funds for political advertising, which — under certain circumstances — includes a police officer appearing in city uniform in campaign advertisers or on political mailers.
“Whether a violation occurred is fact-dependent,” J.R. Johnson, executive director of the Texas Ethics Commission, wrote in an email Friday. The commission is tasked with administering and enforcing the state’s election law; it does not comment on specific allegations, Johnson said.
Generally, Johnson wrote, government officials cannot “misdirect publicly-owned resources under their control towards the creation of distribution of political advertising.”
Salcido abruptly canceled the town hall minutes before it was scheduled to begin. She told the group of about five people that Allen had an undisclosed emergency and would not be able to make it.
Instagram and Facebook posts shared by Salcido and Rodriguez touted the event as an “Upper East Side Townhall” focused on public safety.
Salcido’s mailer mirrored the social media invitation, but included a logo that read “Re-elect Salcido for City Representative District 5” along with voting dates and her campaign website and contact information. A small disclaimer noted that it was a “Pol Adv. paid for by Isabel Salcido Campaign.”
Public information officials with the city and the police department have not provided comment about why Allen canceled his appearance, whether he was aware that Salcido used his photo on her campaign mailer, and whether the city attorney has addressed the issue with either Allen or the city representatives.
Salcido did not make herself available for a phone interview, but in a text message exchange, she said that Allen had not given her permission to use his photo and that he was not aware of the mailer until after it was sent.
“This event was not political and no public funds were ever used to benefit my campaign,” Salcido said in a text response. “I wanted to increase participation so I included it in my public safety mailer that was paid for by my campaign. Chief Allen was not aware of this. The goal was to get my constituents to share their concerns with the chief.”
Rodriguez did not respond to a request for a phone interview, but in a text message said she was not made aware of the mailer until after it was sent to District 5 residents.
Had Allen attended the town hall, he could have unknowingly violated the Texas Local Government Code, as it prohibits police and fire department employees from appearing in uniform or on duty for political activity on behalf of a candidate.
Allen faced criticism two years ago when he appeared in uniform at a July 2020 El Paso County Republican Party event that welcomed then-new state party Chairman Allen West. City officials at the time said that Allen’s appearance was appropriate and was not political because law enforcement had been invited to share their concerns with a state official. West, however, was not a state official.
Richard Genera, one of two challengers for Salcido’s seat representing the area east of Loop 375, issued a press release Thursday stating that he had reported the mailer to the Texas Ethics Commission as a potential Local Government Code violation. El Paso Matters did not obtain a copy of his complaint.
The ethics commission dismissed the complaint on Friday because it does not have jurisdiction over the section of the code cited in the complaint, according to a letter Salcido shared with El Paso Matters.
The dismissal doesn’t prohibit Genera or any Texas resident from submitting a new or revised complaint about possible violations the commission does oversee.
“As required by law, our investigations are conducted confidentially, and whether a violation has occurred is determined by our bipartisan panel of eight commissioners,” Johnson wrote.