President Donald Trump’s campaign team reportedly owes El Paso an approximate $570,000, and the city is now lawyering up to get their money.
The Trump campaign owes El Paso this rough amount for a rally held back in February 2019, at a time when the president was looking to secure funding to construct a wall along the border between US and Mexico.
El Paso has stated the campaign owes $470,000 for security costs and other related expenses. When the initial invoice wasn’t paid, the city added late fees of $99,000.
This week, El Paso’s City Council has unanimously approved hiring outside legal counsel for help in recouping the debt.
As reported by NBC affiliate KTSM, City Representative Peter Pvarzbein made the following remarks during a council meeting on Tuesday, November 24:
We all are seeing firsthand the struggles that everyday El Paso families have, in addition to the challenges that we have in our own budget.
So this amount of money is not inconsequential and also the message that we send that nobody is above the law is also an important one for our community to understand as well.
As reported by The Texas Tribune, the city had initially considered suing the campaign to recoup the funds earlier this year, but ultimately decided against this course of action.
City Attorney Karla Nieman hasn’t explained what led to this decision, however her office is reportedly now looking at other ways of collecting the debt.
Nieman has reportedly made the following statement:
We’re on unprecedented territory by having to collect an outstanding invoice from a sitting president. We continue to explore various options.
El Paso is one of several cities in Texas currently facing operating budget shortfalls due to coronavirus, with the border area having been particularly impacted by the pandemic.
Back in September, Mayor Dee Margo informed The Texas Tribune that El Paso’s 2021 budget would be slashed by $24 million compared to 2020.
The significant reduction is partly due to El Paso’s tax base primarily coming from residential properties rather than the new commercial construction that has enabled bigger cities to reduce losses.
On top of this, El Paso has collected substantially less revenue from bridge tolls, with travel from Mexico into Texas having been greatly limited. As a consequence, this has meant sales tax revenue generated shoppers from Mexico have been largely absent since the early months of the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Mayor Margo said told The Texas Tribune that approximately 26% of small businesses in the city have now closed, with over 15,000 jobs having been lost.
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