EDINBURG — Homer Jasso Jr. is eagerly awaiting his day in court after his peers on the city council here found him guilty of violating the city charter during an inquiry against him Wednesday afternoon.
The two-hour inquiry mimicked a court hearing, with Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina serving as the arbiter and the rest of the council as the jury.
Jasso is accused of “willfully” violating the city charter by engaging in business with the city through a tire recycling business he once partially owned. The city charter prohibits such action and indicates it could lead to the forfeiture of his seat.
Jasso — who testified under oath but was not cross-examined — said Wednesday he no longer had a stake in the company and indicated he had not received compensation when he parted ways with the firm.
“There were a lot of smear campaigns going around accusing me of stealing from the city … and that’s not what I stand for,” he said. “So (I was) willing just to give it all up and move forward.”
His attorney, David Flores, and the city’s attorney, Ricardo Gonzalez, took turns cross-examining three witnesses: Richard Hinojosa, city manager; Ramiro L. Gomez, director of solid waste management; and Ascencion Alonzo, director of finance.
Each spoke about their knowledge of the events in question, including when they became aware Jasso owned Santa Anita Recycling LLC. Some of the testimony appeared contradictory as they each tried to establish a timeline.
Ultimately, though, all parties said they did not believe Jasso had acted inappropriately.
The council and new city attorney, however, did not agree.
After a few minutes of deliberation behind closed doors, three council members — David Torres, Gilbert Enriquez and Jorge Salinas — emerged with their minds made up. Jasso and Molina did not participate in the private deliberations
One by one, they each said they found Jasso guilty of the violation.
“I just looked at the facts that were presented to us,” Torres said after the meeting. “I won’t get into specifics, but I did go through the whole process. In my opinion it was willful, and I believe he knew and chose not to (disclose). …We should always advise each other so no one gets in trouble (for) what’s happening because we work as a group.”
Gonzalez said Jasso’s ignorance of the provision did not excuse his actions.
“He took an oath to uphold the city charter and ordinances,” Gonzalez said. “So you would think somebody would look at those before they did business with the city.”
Jasso’s attorney, however, disagreed.
“I do a lot of government work. I don’t know any council member, any board member that has read the charter and knows the complete language, Flores said. “Clearly the city attorney and the city manager did not know it, so I think it’s more than reasonable that he (Jasso) didn’t know it.”
Wednesday’s decision will ultimately be reviewed by state District Judge Mario Ramirez, who granted an order prohibiting the council from removing Jasso from office until after a judicial review.
“We look forward to our opportunity to be heard in court, and once we have people with the legal knowledge of what (these) statutes and these charters really mean, I think we’ll get the result that we’re looking for,” Jasso’s attorney said.