Update: Daytime Edinburg council meetings in dispute

Councilman Gilbert Enriquez and Mayor Richard Molina

Updated at 8:40 p.m.

In an already scandal-ravaged city, a war of words has erupted between members of the Edinburg City Council over daytime meetings and accusations that the mayor is attempting to hide certain items from the public.

On Monday, Edinburg Councilman Gilbert Enriquez took to Facebook accusing Mayor Richard Molina and Mayor Pro-Tem David Torres of strategically holding council meetings at inconvenient times for public attendance.

Citing charter language, Enriquez said regular meetings are to be held every first and third Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. However, the Place 2 councilman accused Molina and Torres of being “extremely unethical” for moving the meetings to what he believes are inconvenient times, such as the most recent meeting at noon Monday.

“Conducting regular scheduled meetings during the work day (8am-5pm) is not, in my opinion, in the best interest of transparency and ethics,” Enriquez wrote. “I along with the majority of our citizens work for a living and cannot take time away from work to attend these PUBLIC meetings during working hours.”

He then accused Molina and Torres of moving the meetings as a way to “hide certain action items on the agenda from the public,” and to stop him from asking questions.

In a statement, Molina did not address the idea of it being more difficult for the public to attend daytime meetings, but instead said he “agreed” with Enriquez’s assessment that he has the right to move meetings. He also noted the meetings followed Texas law.

“It was posted in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings act,” Molina wrote via text message Monday evening. “That means the meeting was publicly posted a minimum of 72 hours before (the) meeting time.”

The mayor also cited an “All America City Presentation” as the reason for changing the meeting from Tuesday to Monday. The events calendar released by the city manager’s office last week, however, only included rehearsals on Monday and Wednesday.

Molina then leveled his own criticisms of Enriquez, saying the councilman did not give him a reason for missing Monday’s noon meeting.

He also accused Enriquez of missing a scheduled meeting to attend a sporting event, sharing a photo of what he alleged to be the councilman at a Spurs game instead of a council meeting.

The charter does not require council members to seek permission to miss meetings, only that they cannot miss three consecutive meetings.

Molina characterized Enriquez’s concerns as political posturing ahead of the November elections and apologized for what he called “false comments about lack of transparency and hiding agenda items.”

This isn’t the first time Enriquez has accused the group of attempting to silence him.

The council removed Enriquez from the EDC board in April because he was asking too many questions, he told The Monitor.

“My suspicion is that they just didn’t feel comfortable with me questioning things that were being done, the money that was being spent,” Enriquez told The Monitor following his removal. “I think they don’t like transparency. They don’t want the taxpayer to know exactly where their tax dollars are going.”

Molina, however, said Edinburg is “very transparent and always available to the public.”

The dispute comes during a sensitive time for the city as Molina and his wife, Dalia Molina, are two of 19 individuals facing illegal voting charges tied to the November 2017 municipal election. Specifically, Molina is accused of organized election fraud and 11 counts of illegal voting, and has denied any wrongdoing.

The case has garnered widespread attention and prompted a resident to file paperwork to recall the mayor; such action eventually led to members of the council approving similar documents — petitions allowing residents to collect signatures for their recall.

Gilbert Enriquez’s full statement from Facebook:

Residents/Taxpayers of the City of Edinburg: Enough is enough with Molina and Torres! Our City Charter establishes our…

Posted by Gilbert Enriquez on Monday, June 17, 2019

Richard Molina’s full statement:

Good evening. This is Mayor Molina. In response to Mr. Enriquez‘s comments on social media, he is correct. The mayor does have the authority to call a special meeting.  A meeting was called for noon today. It was posted in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings act. That means the meeting was publicly posted a minimum of 72 hours before meeting time. All members of council were present today except for Mr. Enriquez. He did not call me, the city manager, or the city attorney to give a reason for his absence. The meeting was moved to noon because this week we have scheduled practices Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for the All America City Presentation. It is a prestigious honor to be named one of the finalists for this award. I am very proud of our staff and the hard work that they do. This week we travel to Denver to present on behalf of Edinburg . It’s been 20 years since we won this award and many city officials, both past and present, have worked to help Edinburg win this distinction three times.  All Mayors and council members, both past and present, promote and praise Edinburg being an All-America City.

It was brought to my attention about the negative remarks that Mr Enriquez made.

I apologize on his behalf about his false comments about lack of transparency and hiding agenda items. The meeting was open to the public and we welcome public comments which were first on the agenda. Mr. Enriquez has a missed council meeting  so that he could attend a Spurs game. I have included a picture of Mr. Enriquez at that game. He missed the first meeting of this year because he had plans to attend a sporting event. This year is an election year and Mr. Enriquez is trying to create a narrative to push his candidate for November 2019. At the City of Edinburg we are very transparent and always available to the public.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include new information about the change of schedule for the meeting.