Edinburg council has yet to mull recall petition

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)

Pressure is mounting for elected officials here to review a petition to recall the mayor’s election, but the council does not appear to be in any hurry to address the issue, despite a ticking clock.

The matter was further complicated this week by yet another arrest involving alleged voter fraud in the 2017 municipal election, which brought the total number of accused to 19.

Edinburg resident Robert Solis filed the petition to remove Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina 12 days ago, following the mayor’s high-profile arrest for alleged organized election fraud. But the 30-day process to collect signatures hit a wall because the city has not adopted a proper form to collect them, city attorney Omar Ochoa told local media Monday.

In order for Solis to collect signatures in the allotted time frame specified by the city charter, the council must adopt an official form, Ochoa said, but the council has yet to hold a meeting to address the issue.

The council was scheduled to meet twice last week — once on Tuesday and then again on Thursday. Neither of the meeting agendas, however, included an item to discuss and approve the document Solis needs.

Instead, the council majority — which includes Molina and council members David Torres and Jorge Salinas — skipped out on Tuesday’s meeting, leaving the local government body without the required quorum to officiate business. Only Homer Jasso Jr. and Gilbert Enriquez, who are at odds with the majority, attended Tuesday’s meeting last week.

It’s unclear why the majority did not attend the first meeting, but all three were present for Thursday’s meeting, where potential Chapter 380 economic incentives were announced for two hospital projects — one led by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and the other by South Texas Health Systems.

Four council members attended Thursday’s meeting: Molina, Torres, Salinas and Enriquez. It was enough to form a quorum, despite Jasso Jr.’s absence, and the majority faction had enough votes to approve both hospital incentives.

Enriquez, a recent defector of the majority, voted against both items, but his lone vote, however, was not enough to stop the majority from taking action.

It’s unclear what either of the hospital-led projects entail, and details about the potential incentives were not disclosed. The council was vague about the items after emerging from a closed-door meeting and cities do not usually disclose information regarding economic incentives until an agreement is formally signed.

Still, the city attorney did mention Edinburg City Manager Juan Guerra would not be involved in negotiations involving the projects. And while Ochoa didn’t specifically say why Guerra will not participate, it is likely there may be a conflict of interest. Guerra told staff last month he was considering employment with Doctors Hospital at Renaissance.

If he leaves, Guerra will join a long list of employees who have recently left the city, including two other city managers.

It remains unclear when elected officials will discuss the issue as they have not posted an agenda for any upcoming meetings, which must be set with 72-hours prior notice.

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