Mercedes city attorney resigns after 14-year tenure

The Mercedes City Commission accepted longtime City Attorney Juan Molina’s resignation during a special meeting Tuesday.

“It seemed like a good time to pivot … and concentrate on other business ventures and start traveling a little more,” Molina said.

Molina will end his 14-year tenure as city attorney in February.

“The past fourteen years have been very rewarding and it brought me great pleasure to assist and legally represent the city of Mercedes,” he wrote in his resignation letter addressed to the city manager. “I will cooperate with the new counsel to make the transition process as seamless as possible.”

Molina said he will continue his Weslaco-based private law practice and focus on real estate and business ventures, such as the Goliad Review, a publishing company.

As the city’s attorney, Molina ensures the Mercedes City Commission abides by the Texas Open Meetings Act, reviews legal documents and at times represents the city in court.

“I love Mercedes, and I love the work that I do,” he said.

Some of his proudest moments include his involvement in local economic boosts and avoiding “significant” lawsuit settlements, he said.

“I can go on, and on, and on,” Molina said. “It’s just been a very positive, rewarding experience.”

For the most part, he said, Mercedes avoided having to pay large sums to plaintiffs who have sued the city.

“I’m not saying I haven’t made mistakes, we’re all human,” he said, noting he resigned of his own accord and was not asked to quit.

When asked about the city apparently paying for an attorney to represent City Commissioner Leo Villarreal in a lawsuit filed by former City Manager Richard Garcia, Molina dispelled rumors that the issue contributed to his decision to depart.

In 2017, Molina received local media attention for asking the Mercedes City Commission audience to stop video recording the meeting. Velda Garcia, a resident who at times live-streams meetings, stopped recording as a result of Molina’s request, even though the Texas Open Meetings Act allows the public to record commission meetings.

“I was upset because he is my uncle, and I would think he would do what’s right for the community because he is getting paid with tax dollars from the citizens of Mercedes,” said Garcia, who was at City Hall Tuesday afternoon, submitting a public information request.

Mayor Henry Hinojosa said the city will publish a request for qualifications to hire a new attorney.

“We’ve been friends, and we’ll remain as friends for a long time,” Hinojosa said of Molina.