BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Monday night, Brownsville residents expected details into the employment status and retirement of Brownsville Public Utilities Board’s CEO John S. Bruciak.
BPUB promised those details would be coming this week when Bruciak announced his retirement Jan. 4.
“The [BPUB] Board wants to inform the public that more information will become available at the next board meeting set for Monday, Jan. 9,” the board had stated.
However, as Monday’s BPUB meeting arrived, those details simply did not come.
Bruciak has been under public scrutiny–and faced calls from the public for his firing or even criminal prosecution– after the city’s forensic audit report indicated he and former Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez mislead city commissioners and BPUB board members to gain their consent to pursue a $118 million power plant–despite indications they had knowledge the project was not going to happen.
The authorization of the project, however, allowed BPUB to increase customer rates for years, under the presumption the fees were paying for the project’s development.
BPUB placed Bruciak on 60-days of paid administrative leave in mid-October 2022. Those 60 days have passed, with almost three weeks between that and his Jan. 4 announcement.
ValleyCentral asked officials Monday night if Bruciak remains an employee of the utilities board but could not get any clarification.
As no further details were provided about Bruciak’s employment status or his retirement announcement, frustration is mounting for some in the community–even as the city commission has been unable to do much to intervene.
The city’s charter does not provide commissioners with much power. They are not permitted to terminate BPUB employees, even the CEO of the public utility board. Further, the city commission cannot remove BPUB board members without a super majority of all city commissioners and the mayor voting in favor of a board member’s ouster.
Last week, commissioners Jessica Tetreau and Roy De Los Santos attempted to remove BPUB board member Sandra Saenz but failed because Mayor Trey Mendez had a conflict of interest that preventing him from participating in the vote.
Saenz is thought to be responsible by some city commissioners who say she did not take official action after Bruciak’s 60-day administration leave expired in late 2022.
“Because the motion failed,” Tetreau said, “I need to look into the technicalities of that, but I absolutely would be open to it as long as we continue sending the message to [BPUB] that we are not happy, that more steps need to be taken, and we expect accountability and will continue putting it on the agenda even if it doesn’t pass. At least it sends a message that we expect you to do better.”
The city commission has ordered a review of its city charter with the goal of it being rewritten to grant the city more authority over BPUB. The revisions would be put before voters for approval.