Edinburg resident demands mayor resign

Edinburg resident Robert Solis holds a petition requesting the resignation of Mayor Richard Molina at Edinburg City Hall on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

EDINBURG — A local resident wants Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina to step down after being arrested last week on illegal voting charges in connection with the November 2017 election which inducted him into office.

Robert Solis said the arrest of Molina and his wife, Dalia, last week has eroded the public’s trust in the mayor.

“There’s a public mistrust with arrests and accusations and the negative light that he’s (Molina) cast upon the city and himself,” Solis said Wednesday morning outside Edinburg City Hall, where he planned to formally request the mayor resign his position. Failing that, he is prepared to initiate the process to call a recall election.

“We believe that he needs to either resign or we can have a recall election and let the voters decide what they think is best for the city,” Solis said.

But his attempt to deliver an affidavit seeking Molina’s resignation to Edinburg City Secretary Ludivina Leal hit a snag Wednesday morning.

After making a brief stop at an informational kiosk inside city hall and learning that she was unavailable, Solis was directed to the city’s media relations department. There, a woman invited him into her office only to tell him he needed to deliver the affidavit to the legal department, located on the second floor.

Solis climbed the steps to find the door to the legal department closed. A moment later, another city staffer poked their head out the door. When Solis asked if he could come in, the person promptly said no and shut the door again.

“We had to wait there 5-10 minutes. Nobody wanted to talk to us. They shut the door on us,” Solis said afterwards.

Solis eventually went back to the informational kiosk to ask for the city secretary again. After a prolonged wait, a third staffer emerged from a back office to tell Solis that Leal had been contacted by phone and would be unavailable until the afternoon.

At approximately 3 p.m., Solis returned and presented his petition to the city secretary, who marked the document with a timestamp.

“We submitted the petition for his resignation — Mayor Molina’s — and/or a recall. So now we have roughly 30 days to come up with signatures,” Solis said afterwards.

According to the Edinburg city charter, a voter can petition for the recall of an elected official. However, the number of signatures required to make the petition valid depends on the number of voters who participated in the last election.

Solis must collect signatures equal to at least 25% of the people who voted in November 2017. He estimates that figure to be approximately 2,000 signatures.

If Solis collects enough signatures within the 30-day timeframe, the city secretary is obligated to present the petition to the city council and the mayor. If Molina does not resign within five days of that notification, the charter mandates the city hold a recall election to put the issue directly to the voters.

Two-thirds of voters will then have to cast their ballots in favor of recall in order for the mayor to be removed.

Solis said he has no personal feelings toward the mayor, and added that the resignation petition serves in Molina’s best interest, as well.

“If he does not resign and we have a recall election, well, that’s to his benefit,” Solis said. “We’ll let the voters of Edinburg determine whether or not they’re the leader that Edinburg wants going forward. Whether he still has the public trust.”

Until then, Solis and the group of likeminded residents are already prepared to begin gathering signatures. At least five people will “be in charge of that,” he said.

“We already have those people in place.”

Asked if he or his petition were affiliated with Molina’s 2017 two political opponents, Solis said no.

In the past, the mayor has asserted the allegations against him are tied to a prominent Edinburg family — the Palacios family — against whom Molina has lobbed voter fraud allegations similar to those made against him.

Asked, too, if Solis has any affiliation with the Palacios family, he responded that he knows some members of the family.

“I’ve lived in Edinburg for 44 years, so, you know, of course I’m gonna know them,” Solis said. “Are they my friends? Yeah, some of them are my friends from high school, that I’ve known, but, I have friends on both sides.”

According to the charter, the city secretary must return copies of Solis’ petition to him stamped with the city seal, along with blanks for gathering signatures. From that point forward, Solis will have 30 days to gather a sufficient number of signatures.

It’s unclear how long the city can take before returning the petition and blanks to Solis. City spokesperson Cary Zayas said the petition is currently being reviewed.

“I can tell you right now it’s being reviewed by legal,” Zayas said as she walked across the foyer toward her office.

Zayas declined to respond to a question asking if statements she made outside Molina’s arraignment last week were official statements on behalf of the city of Edinburg. She did, however, say that the mayor had not asked her to speak on his behalf.

“He did not,” she said, before declining other questions and while closing a door.

Molina did not answer a call from The Monitor Wednesday evening, nor did he respond to a text message seeking comment.