Investigations and sworn complaints ensue in McAllen commission races

McALLEN — Investigations and sworn complaints have begun in both of McAllen’s contested commissioner races, with the city attorney’s office issuing a ruling in one race and the Texas Ethics Commission probing the other.

Tania Ramirez, a candidate for the District 4 City Commission seat and an attorney in McAllen who is currently under investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s Office for alleged voter fraud, filed her 30-day campaign finance report a day past the deadline and now, the City Attorney’s Office has gotten involved.

Ramirez filed her campaign finance report on Friday without proper notary authorization that is required of the official candidate filings, the City Attorney’s Office told the City Secretary’s Office.

When asked by the City Secretary’s Office to rule on Ramirez’s report, the City Attorney’s Office on Tuesday said that Ramirez had to file an amended campaign finance report with the proper notary signature. By end of day Tuesday, Ramirez had not filed an amended report with the city secretary, City Secretary Perla Lara said.

In the three-candidate race on the May 4 ballot for the District 5 seat, incumbent Commissioner John Ingram is facing a sworn complaint filed by challenger Mark Murray, a South Texas College professor, with the Texas Ethics Commission, which “accepts jurisdiction over the allegation.” Murray alleged that Ingram has placed his official District 5 City Commissioner business cards in residents’ doorways along with other campaign information while Ingram has been knocking on doors campaigning.

Ingram dismissed Murray’s allegations as “baseless,” pointing to his 30-day campaign finance report filed with the City Secretary’s Office last week that shows payments for his own cards. Murray attached images to his complaint that showed Ingram’s business cards attached to other campaign information. Ingram said he paid for them on his own, not from city funds.

“It’s just like everything Mark does — he seems to look at things on a superficial level and not do any homework,” Ingram said, adding that he plans to write a response to the ethics commission by Tuesday night. “When you look at campaign finance report, I claimed receipt there.”

McAllen City Commissioner John Ingram

Murray on Tuesday said his complaint filed with the ethics commission speaks for itself, but offered: “Elected officials should not be using public funds to campaign. That’s what it boils down to.”

Early voting for the May 4 election begins on April 22, with Victor “Seby” Haddad, a banker and businessman, the third candidate in the District 5 race.

Joe Califa, a retired city planner, is the other candidate in the District 4 race. Califa and Ramirez are vying for the southwest McAllen seat that has been held for the last 18 years by Commissioner Aida Ramirez, who is retiring.

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