Updated at 9:15 p.m.
Recall petitions for Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina and members of the city council have failed to obtain the signatures needed to move forward with a local group’s efforts to remove city leadership from office, according to the group.
It’s unclear how many signatures the recall petitions gathered.
“There were an impressive number of signatures collected and we do not view this as defeat, but as a victory for those who came together and delivered a message the current behavior of those city council members in question will not be tolerated,” according to a statement provided by the group, The Edinburg Recall, on Thursday.
Read the full statement:
Residents were attempting to recall council members, including Molina, who faces a single count of organized election fraud and 11 counts of illegal voting tied to the November 2017 municipal election. The mayor, who has denied the allegations, is one of 19 individuals facing similar charges, including his wife Dalia Molina.
Cary Zayas, spokesperson for the city of Edinburg, said the city secretary did not receive any petitions by end of day Thursday.
“We remain steadfast to our effort to restore honesty and integrity to the city of Edinburg,” the group wrote. “We thank all of those who have helped in any way and leave you with the message that it isn’t over until its [sic] over.”
According to the Edinburg City Charter, the petition must have at least 25% of the number of voters “who cast their votes at last preceding regular municipal election.” Approximately 8,400 people voted during the 2017 municipal election, according to the Hidalgo County Elections Department, meaning at least 2,100 signatures were needed.
Alma Robledo, a member of the group who was a designated witness of signatures, served as one of several people collecting signatures. The city charter requires that five circulators be held responsible for each petition.
Robledo, however, called the charter out of date, and said the specifications on election recalls didn’t consider a population of about 90,000.
“I feel like it’s a stolen election,” she said about why she volunteered her time to solicit signatures. “If we have a leader in our city who is capable of organizing this voter fraud, what else is he doing?”
She specifically carried forms for Molina, Mayor Pro-Tem David Torres, and council members Jorge Salinas and Gilbert Enriquez, but said most people asked to sign the mayor’s form.
The first affidavit to oust Molina was filed by Edinburg resident Robert Solis on May 1. But the council did not approve petition forms until May 17. The group claims the city asked for the petition back eight days earlier than the allowed 30 days.
“To begin with, eight days were crucial,” Robledo said. “With those eight days, we could have gotten the numbers.”
The group set up drive-thrus to obtain signatures, but Robledo said she was also block walking. That was time consuming, she said, partly because people wanted to talk about the controversy.
Edinburg residents would ask about his new charges, and some expressed hesitation to sign for fear of retaliation, she said.
One of the group organizers, Ruben Hinojosa, said they’ll consider their next steps.