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Armenta crowned Miss Douglas Days 2019; Moreno crowned Miss Douglas Days Teen

Vianca Armenta was crowned Miss Douglas Days 2019 and Jael Monzerrat Moreno was crowned the Miss Douglas Days Teen at the Miss Douglas Days Scholarship Pageant, held Saturday night in the Ray Borane Middle School Auditorium.

Five young ladies competed in the Miss Division while four competed in the Teen Division.

Jessica Cyrus O’Pry Tellez was the first runner up in the Miss Division. Giselle Flores was first runner-up in the Teen Division.

The contestants were judged on a private interview, talent, formal wear and a question posed on stage.

Saturday’s pageant also marked the end to the reign for Miss Douglas Days 2018 Jesalen Luna and Miss Douglas Days Teen Kassandra Espadas.

In her farewell remarks, Luna thanked her family, friends the community and the sponsors for their support and said she really enjoyed being Miss Douglas Days 2018.

“Tonight, is a bittersweet evening for me but I am looking forward to the future,” she said. ‘When I won the title last year, I was excited for the crown, the trophy and of course the title. Throughout the year I have realized that I have won something much greater than material prizes. I have won a lifetime of memories; the opportunities to meet new people in my community, the chance to give back and the chance to represent the young women of Douglas who are strong, amazing and beautiful. … It has been an honor to be your 2018 Douglas Days queen.”

Espadas expressed her gratitude for allowing her being the first Miss Douglas Days Teen.

“I had an excellent time being Miss Douglas Days Teen, especially having such an amazing person like Jesalen by my side.” she said.

Armenta is a senior at Douglas High School and the daughter of Javier and Heidi Armenta. Moreno is a junior at DHS and the daughter of Ricardo and Karla Moreno. When her reign is up Armenta will receive a $500 scholarship; Moreno will receive a $100 scholarship.

After the pageant Armenta said she is still in shock at being named Miss Douglas Days 2019 but she is also very excited about what this year is going to bring.

“I’m looking forward to getting more involved in the community and meeting new people,” she said. “It’s going to be such a great experience.”

She said the most difficult part of the pageant was the on-stage question because public speaking is not her strong point. For her talent she sang a Spanish number by Selena.

Moreno had previously been the 2017 Miss Teen China Poblana and said that experience helped her as she prepared for this pageant.

“This is really exciting,” she said. “I felt the same nervousness here that I did getting ready for Miss Teen China.”

Both Armenta and Luna will make their first public appearance as Miss Douglas Days and Miss Douglas Days Teen at the 2019 Douglas Days festival, May 17-18.

The remaining Miss Division contestants were: Abisai Preciado, Dara Preciado, who won the Spirit Award, and Ariana Luna. The remaining Teen Division contestants were: Analicia Santa Cruz and Jasmine Galaz.

The Miss Douglas Days pageant was sponsored by the Greater Douglas Chamber of Commerce, SWC Interiors, the City of Douglas, Douglas Unified School District, Cornelia Munoz, Illusions Boutique, Hair by Alan Rubio, Ariel’s Photography, Paulie’s Photography, Photo editing by Ammi Robles, KariRose Designs and TallKnight Productions. The pageant was directed by Susan and Caitlyn Kramer.

Bruce Whetten / By Bruce Whetten/Douglas Dispatch  

Douglas’ former city manager Jim Russell is interviewed by Channel 4 at the April 10 Douglas City Council meeting.

Former city manager cleared following investigation

Based on an outside inquiry, the City Attorney has cleared Douglas’ former city manager Jim Russell of discriminating and creating a hostile work environment while employed by the municipality.

The City Council met in executive session for close to 30 minutes on Wednesday, April 10 to discuss allegations by City Clerk Brenda Aguilar. She claimed that various actions during Russell’s employment violated federal and state laws as well as the city’s anti-harassment policy.

City Attorney Juan Flores noted in open session during a special council meeting that the discrimination/hostile work environment complaint and the report have been made public and that there are no findings and no need for further action.

Pierce Coleman PLLC, an outside agency who specializes in employment law, was hired by Douglas to investigate the claim in February.

According to Aguilar’s complaint, on Nov. 21, 2018 Russell and Aguilar became involved in a workplace dispute, allegedly precipitated by Russell that contributed to a discriminatory and/or hostile work environment. Immediately following that dispute Russell allegedly made comments to Mayor Robert Uribe that she alleged underscored his discriminatory animus.

The report concluded that “Russell’s past comments and behavior do not evidence discriminatory animus based on any protected characteristic. Neither the November 21, 2018 incident nor Mr. Russell’s post incident comments evidence discriminatory animus based on any protected characteristic.”

Complaint copy
Russell's statement

“I have sat quietly regarding the events surrounding my removal from the city manager position I held for two years, but feel it is time to speak out,” the statement says in part. “It seems to me, though no one has been professional enough with me to have a conversation, that the vote to not renew my contract was the direct result of a couple of factors, the evaluation in October and the claim of hostile work/discriminatory environment.”

In addressing the claim, Russell acknowledged he and the city clerk had an incident after he informed her that his administrative assistant was too busy to perform document shredding on a particular day.

“Although I repeatedly asked for the investigation to be conducted by a third party, the city attorney refused to bring the claim to council and refused to approve HR to secure an investigator,” he said. “I also asked the mayor for a resolution meeting to be conducted in an attempt to restore harmony to the office, but that request went not just unanswered but totally ignored.”

Russell said he feels this claim cannot and should not have been held against him resulting in his contract not being renewed and if held in a timely manner, there may have been a different outcome regarding his contract.

“In my opinion, the mayor knew that the claim would not hold up and that is why it was stalled,” Russell alleged in his statement.

The former city manager also addressed the October meeting where his evaluation was conducted in executive session and he was never called in to the evaluation.

“In consideration of my contract, I requested both the city clerk and the city attorney place my contract on an agenda beginning in October and was told by both that only the mayor, or at the request of three councilmembers, could place that agenda item (even though the agenda is considered the City Manager’s agenda for mayor and council consideration and action by city charter, though the mayor or three councilmembers could place any item on the agenda),” according to the statement. “Therefore, the city clerk refused to place the contract on an agenda without the mayor’s consent. The mayor ignored my request until November 26 when he asked for my resignation and, when I refused to give it, informed me there was no way he was going to place my contract on an agenda and he would let it run out … which was five days after the alleged hostile work incident.”

Russell adds repeated individual requests by councilmembers Donnie Huish, Margaret Morales, and Ray Shelton went ignored until all three signed a written request to place it on an agenda.

“This was submitted prior to my contract expiration but the mayor stated that the request was not received in a timely manner; eventually he was made to honor the requests, after the contract had already expired,” the statement said.

In an email statement to the Dispatch, Aguilar said, “There is more to the story than what is being told. I have several concerns as the investigator ignored evidence of fraud among other issues of great importance. Victims of abuse should never be silenced due to fear of retaliation, judgment and blame – fear of being re-victimized through the legal process or fear of not being believed by peers. I am glad James T. Russell is no longer working for the City of Douglas.”

“I still desire to be returned to office and lead the City of Douglas into a prosperous future,” Russell said. “I love Douglas and have made it my home. I’m considering my options should council not return me to the city manager position.”

Council approves resolution supporting two port solution

The proposed port of entry expansion project has taken another major step forward.

The Douglas City Council approved a resolution that sets up the path for donation of up to 80 acres of land along James Ranch Road to the U.S. Federal Government for a new commercial port entry west of town during its regular city council meeting that was held Wednesday, March 10.

Ann English of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors addressed the mayor and council saying that on Tuesday, April 9 the BofS had passed its own resolution showing their support of the project. See related story County supervisors support new commercial port of entry.

This action by the city council further shapes the two-port solution which will create a separate commercial trucking port approximately six miles west of the constricted existing port which vehicles, pedestrian and commercial trucking all funnel through.

According to information released by the city, as part of the resolution, Douglas has committed to continuing the planning and development of the infrastructure improvements that will be needed for operation. Annexation of lands connecting the city-owned site to deliver city water, wastewater and public safety are key to servicing this cross-border doorway for trade and commerce.

“The request from the GSA (General Services Administration) in late March for this public commitment by the city and its partners is one more step in the long journey to realizing this significant regional project,” Mayor Robert Uribe stated in a press release. “With the GSA Feasibility Study due out this summer, excitement is growing that this cross-border enterprise will improve commerce for our binational community and the state. In 2018, trade between Arizona and Mexico yielded around $4 billion coming through the Raul H. Castro Port of Entry here in Douglas.”

The mayor added the city is pleased to have such broad support and high level of collaboration as it continues to communicate and move forward with its technical partners.

“Our Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, D-2, has stated this is within her top three priorities,” he said. “Cochise County has committed to master planning the area while the city will annex contiguous lands to lay out the path for infrastructure development of water and wastewater services.”

According to the release, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has recognized the need for a connector road and improvement for state highways leading from the site that will carry trucks to I-10 to the north. Sierra Vista has also expressed interest in funding some of the planning services necessary to serve this regional economic engine. APS and Cox Communication are working to ensure delivery of electricity, bandwidth and data-transfer needs. Local economic development partners of the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) and the Douglas Regional Economic Development Corporation (DREDC) have stepped up to facilitate some of the land ownership around the site to assist in bringing this project to fruition. Additionally, the city enjoys regional support from Freeport McMoRan, the cities of Benson, Bisbee, Huachuca City, Tombstone and Wilcox, who recognize the importance of the port expansion. It is also grateful for interest at the highest levels of government in our additional partnerships with Homeland Security Administration, Customs and Border Patrol and the Governor’s Office.

Luis Ramirez, Douglas’ advisor on border crossing issues, addressed the mayor and council at the meeting. He said this resolution is a big step for the city in going forward with this project.

“The approval of this resolution means that we are reaffirming our commitment to the federal government; that we are partnering with them on advancing everything associated with the port of entry,” he said. “It also includes a partnership with the county in terms of the master planning so we are smart in how we are going to develop that land around the port of entry. … This is one of the essential steps for advancing the port of entry. … It also puts Douglas in line for $150-300 million dollars in funding for the port of entry project.”