FBI raids often make headlines but the one last week in Laredo was extraordinary for its breadth. The FBI raided the City Hall, the City Hall Annex, the city Public Works Department, the offices of a Webb County Commissioner, the County Auditor’s office and the County Engineering Office.
Julia Wallace, a city and county government reporter for the Laredo Morning Times says the search warrants suggest a wide-reaching probe into public corruption relating to Dannenbaum Engineering, which has been awarded high-profile contracts with the city and the county, during the past decade.
“They are currently under a $2 million contract with [Webb County] for a highway expansion [and] they’re also working on a contract with the city and the county for constructing a new road,” Wallace says
There has be no allegation of wrongdoing against Dannenbaum so far.
“Their lawyer has released a few statements saying that they’re complying fully with the FBI, saying that they had worked with the FBI previous to this and they wish they had been given the option to work with them rather than to have just been raided,” Wallace says.
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz called the raids “embarrassing” but said he welcomed the investigation. In December 2014, Saenz vetoed a $1 million contract with Dannenbaum because he said the bids were not properly procured, but the City Council overruled the veto and Dannenbaum was awarded the contract.
Webb County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jaime Canales is the only person associated with the raids so far. Wallace says Canales has not taken her calls, nor has she seen him since the raids. “He issued a statement saying he would be complying with the FBI, but other than that, nothing,” she says.
There are still many unknowns and Wallace says it’s unlikely any arrests will be made in the near future.
Written by Molly Smith.