La Villa aldermen to revisit raising per diem rate

La Villa aldermen will reassess the current per diem rate for food and incidental expenses two weeks after they increased it by $100 for themselves.

The discussion will be held during a special meeting slated for Wednesday evening.

The board earlier this month raised the per diem rate — the allowance paid by the city for meals and incidental expenses — from $150 to $250 for elected officials and from $75 to $125 for city employees.

The rates had previously been reduced to $150 and $75 following former Mayor Hector Elizondo, Alderman David Palomin, Alderman Joe Contreras and Alderman Mario Lopez’s nine-day trip to attend a four-day shopping centers convention in Las Vegas at $250 per diem, which put the board in the spotlight in 2016, according to Monitor archives.

Though it remains unclear whether the board will alter the set rate once again, Contreras, who was absent from the meeting held earlier this month, requested the item be placed back on an agenda for discussion and possible action.

“I’m going to voice my opinion on it, my thoughts and take it from there,” Contreras said.

Contreras, though, would not disclose exactly what he would be saying for the record during the special meeting. He previously indicated this month that he was against increasing the per diem rate, which is now set at nearly five times more than federal employees receive in Texas.

Lopez, who said he “went along” with raising the rate back up earlier this month, said he isn’t opposed to lowering it once again. He said he previously voted to reduce the per diem rate in 2016.

“If there’s a quorum (on Wednesday), I’m going to try to lower it down,” Lopez said.

At least four of the five aldermen must be present Wednesday to meet special meeting quorum requirements. The board of aldermen were absent from the regular meeting scheduled April 11, prompting the call for a special meeting.

It’s unclear if any other aldermen will reconsider raising the rate.

Lopez on Monday became critical of Mayor Alma Moron, who is at odds with aldermen over the per diem rate for elected officials and city employees.

“We get criticized because (aldermen) are the ones that vote, but she has a say so, too,” Lopez said.

He said Moron could have voiced her concern about the per diem rate during the meeting held April 4.

Alderman Jorge Lopez motioned to increase the rate, which was then seconded by Alderman David Palomin. Aldermen Manuel Hinojosa and Mario Lopez did not oppose raising the rate.

Moron, however, questioned the reason behind the move to raise the allowance amount.

“Is there a particular justification to raising them back up to the $250,” Moron, who only votes to break a tie on the board, asked aldermen.

She received a quick reply from Jorge Lopez.

“We should have never lowered it down,” he said. “It was like that for 10 years or so before, so we should have just left it like that.”

Moron then continued with meeting procedure and called for a vote. No alderman was opposed to the increase.

The special meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, located at 916 S. Mike Chapa Drive.