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Former Brownsville Fire Chief’s Indictment Says Thousands Unaccounted For in Union PAC Fund

2 years 11 months 1 week ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 October 19, 2017 5:54 PM October 19, 2017 in News

BROWNSVILLE – The indictment against the former Brownsville fire chief reveals the two charges he faces stem from missing money from a Brownsville Firefighters Association fund.

The "PAC" fund uses the money to support political campaigns. According to the indictment, thousands of dollars went unaccounted for when Elizondo oversaw that fund.

The Brownsville Firefighters Department has about 200 employees. About 90 percent of those are part of the BFA, according to union president Jorge Lerma.

Besides paying their dues to the association, Lerma said some firefighters also voluntarily donate $3 to $10 from each paycheck to the "PAC" fund.

He said that averages about $8,000 to $9,000 per year.

Lerma and the union members could not meet with CHANNEL 5 NEWS Thursday since they are out of town for training with the Texas Ethics Commission. He did, however, speak to us over the phone.

"It's not unusual for us to help out a candidate that's got very little chance to win, as long as they are honest and sincere and they really have their heart into the election, and into the responsibility of being an elected official," Lerma said.

The indictment against Elizondo was filed Wednesday and states he had control over the PAC fund from May 2010 to March 2016. The indictment also alleges during that time, he knowingly and unlawfully misappropriated the money.

Elizondo took our call Thursday but did not want to comment about the indictment until reviewing it with his attorney.

On Tuesday, his attorney, Noe D. Garza, said they dispute the findings.

"The charges are bogus and we intend to litigate them fully in court," said Garza.

Lerma said this is about upholding the union's credibility and integrity.

"We're protecting an organization that is representing the firefighters," he said. "If I were encouragingly turning a blind-eye to the rest of the board, and we just keep it hush, hush, I can guarantee you that we would probably lose a lot of credibility within our own members."

Lerma said Elizondo was the only one overseeing PAC funds, until now.

The union currently reports about money in and out to the association at their monthly meetings and a committee now holds a vote on every PAC expenditure.

UPDATE:

Elizondo is now on suspension without pay from the Brownsville Fire Department. He was demoted from chief to lieutenant in September.

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