Mayor A. Hector Casarez spent more than $5,000 in CASH to buy Walmart gift cards as Christmas gifts for "under privileged" potential voters and residents in 2013. In past years, toys and gifts were donated to provide Christmas gifts for needy children in Wilmer - with at least some verification of real need by a volunteer committee. This past Christmas, Mayor Casarez took complete control over the process, solicited contributions, and decided who would get Christmas Ca$h - or donated presents.
UPDATE: One Year Council Seat Candidate Disrie Lewis thanked the Mayor publicly for her daughter "winning" the only contributed toy (nice bicycle) during the Christmas Tree Lighting event last December. It seems Candidate Lewis ALSO received at least TWO gift cards for which she signed. One entry where she signed listed her own name, address and two children, while the other gift card had been assigned to someone else with 3 children, yet Ms. Lewis signed as receiving this additional gift card as well. Three additional gift cards had been signed for on Mayor Casarez' list as "Received" with no signature and all three were in identical handwriting. In at least one instance, the individual receiving Christmas Ca$h is known to have significant financial resources and in the past would never have qualified for assistance during the normal vetting process - again this individual is well acquainted with the Mayor.
For years, Wilmer has had volunteer members of the community and the police or fire departments as well as city council members collecting toy (and sometimes food) donations for needy children in our community. The former process had folks sign up to request Christmas assistance (toys) for their kids, the "applicants" were "vetted" by the volunteers to assure that there appeared to be a real financial need, and the donated gifts were distributed from the community center by volunteers.
Christmas 2013 was a completely different story: Mayor Casarez solicited CASH "donations" from the major developers around town to fund the Christmas gift program asking for their "support". One long time developer contributed toys as had been the custom for years, which apparently were distributed at the City Christmas Tree Lighting event in mid-December.
Casarez also took over the list of folks requesting assistance, removing the only copy from City Hall and proceeded to make personal distributions to recipients at their private residences, rather than through the community center. The only "vetting" that was performed was to allegedly check the list of recipients to ensure they had not also signed up for free gifts through the Lancaster Outreach Center. Apparently, no one other than Casarez had any involvement in the Christmas Cash Card distribution.
In prior years, members of the police department assisted with the program, checking out potential recipients, and all the gifts were picked up by parents at the community center - not distributed by a single individual to private residences.
WilmerCitizen obtained access to copies of the actual receipts from the purchase of Walmart gift cards. WilmerCitizen has now obtained the signature list of persons requesting assistance as well. Generally, each person requesting Christmas assistance provided a photo id and a copy of their utility bill. However, in about one third of the entries have either no id or no utility bill. As the Mayor touts himself as having "an accounting background", one can only assume that the lack of uniform standards and shoddy record keeping is intentional.
Cash register receipts show gift card purchases totaling $5250 spent on fifty-six (56) gift cards ranging from $25 to $252.50. Here's the actual breakdown by amount:
CA$H # Cards
$ 30.00 1
$ 32.50 1
$ 37.50 1
$ 40.00 1
$ 65.00 14
$ 90.00 1
$ 97.50 9
$5250.00 56 TOTALS
Unfortunately, the list of requestors has only 47 names and absolutely no indication of how much gift card cash was distributed to whom - and it seems no list was kept of the distribution amounts to specific parties. There seems to be no criteria as to why there are such widely varying and unusual amounts distributed - especially those exceeding $100. The last entry on the list includes an individual's name, a note of $50.00 and no other supporting documentation. [ED NOTE: this person must have received two $25 gift cards as none were issued for $50]
Christmas toys for needy kids is one thing - undocumented Christmas Ca$h in these amounts appears to be a blatant attempt to buy goodwill in the community and votes at the polls. Our investigation will continue to verify signatures and receipt of Christmas Ca$h.