Edinburg spokesperson Cary Zayas received a verbal reprimand on April 29 after physically obstructing news media following the April 25 arraignment of Mayor Richard Molina and his wife, Dalia Molina, on voter fraud charges.
City documents obtained by The Monitor show Zayas was disciplined for interfering with reporters and failing to “perform position responsibilities in an appropriate manner and at assigned time,” according to the cited policy violation.
The Monitor requested an interview with City Manager Juan Guerra on April 30 about “how city statements are formulated.” Zayas never followed up on the inquiry.
The Employee Disciplinary Action form, signed by Guerra, states:
“During the Mayor’s arraignment, you were present as a City of Edinburg representative. Your role was to be a neutral observant in order to gather information concerning our Mayor and answer any questions in a professional, cordial and neutral manner.
“During the situation, you blocked the news media’s ability to gather footage and could have improved on being clearly neutral with your answers and communication with the media. It was a difficult time, let’s use this as an opportunity to learn and grow professionally.”
It’s unclear what information the city hoped to obtain with Zayas’ presence at the proceedings.
The city’s Code of Ethics Policy states that “public trust is impaired whenever an actual or potential conflict exists between the private interests of a governmental official and their official duties,” and under the heading of Conflict of Interest, “no officer or employee shall use the prestige or power of their office or employment for their private gain or for the private gain of another.”
On May 2, Zayas emailed Molina’s statement asserting his innocence from her city account — a message that echoed the content and tone in which she was originally reprimanded.
It’s also unclear if the city has considered Zayas’ proximity to the alleged voter fraud as a conflict of interest.
Zayas’ sister, Robin Zayas, was the volunteer deputy registrar that registered Francisco Tamez Jr., who was arrested on two counts of illegal voting in June 2018. Hidalgo County Voter Registrar Supervisor Belinda Sagredo told The Monitor last June it’s not the responsibility of the volunteer deputy to verify the accuracy of information.
“You don’t have the authority to question anything on the application. Your job as a deputy is just to go out there and register — and that’s it,” she said.
Robin Zayas was paid $600 from the Molina campaign in October 2017, the same month she registered Tamez to vote.
Also, Robin Zayas is identified as a manager at Z Digital Media, a public relations company in which Cary Zayas is a partner, according to her application with the city.
The group “handles social media accounts and marketing for several businesses and public figures in the RGV,” she wrote in the application.
Z Digital Media was paid $1,440 in August 2017 for an “advertising expense” and a “consulting expense,” and $816.25 in October 2017 for “advertising,” according to campaign expense documents.
It’s unclear if Cary Zayas still handles Molina’s personal social media accounts, or those of other candidates or officials.
Zayas was originally hired as director of public information in March 2018. The salary for that role was increased from $72,848.47 to $95,000.
The position was reclassified in January as director of communications and media “due to departmental restructure,” according to documents. Zayas also received a pay bump to $105,000 just weeks before the mayor’s surrender to authorities and her subsequent reprimand.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated with additional information about an interview request.