LA GRULLA — The city commission reorganized during Tuesday’s regular meeting with little explanation as to why the change was taking place now and plenty of outcry from residents in attendance.
Mayor Pedro Flores and City Commissioner Merardo Banda voted to appoint Banda as the mayor pro-tempore, taking the title away from Commissioner Patricia Solis.
Solis questioned why the mayor sought to reorganize the board, pointing out that an election hadn’t been held recently that would prompt a reorganization.
Flores said he believed the move was in the best interest of the city but also noted that the position was mainly ceremonial.
A mayor pro-tem assumes the responsibilities of the mayor when the mayor is absent, though Flores said he did not foresee missing any meetings in the near future.
Subsequently, Solis continued to press the mayor on why he was making the change.
Mayor Flores said Banda had more experience on the commission and also pointed to the reorganization of the Rio Grande City school board last month. However, Solis said the two situations were not comparable.
“ You are comparing two different things mayor,” Solis said.
“ (In) May 2017, I took an oath to serve the community of La Grulla, Alto Bonito, and La Victoria. I have done it to the best of my ability,” she said. “Now the mayor wants to change that because I question, because I want to see the integrity of the city, because I’m over here asking about the budget.”
“ I refuse to vacate my position as mayor pro tem” she said, pointing out that she received more votes than Banda during the May 2017 elections. “Therefore I am entitled to this position.”
She argued that any reorganization had to happen at the first meeting of a new governing body which was not the case.
However, city attorney Rene Montalvo said there was no such requirement for reorganization and said the change was legal. When questioned by Solis, though, Montalvo recognized that in his 13 years as the city attorney, the council had never taken such an action.
“ I’m not trying to step on toes but I do… reorganization, it’s hard but it comes with experience also,” Banda said. “I’m not saying I want the mayor to leave or anything but I do feel I have a bit more qualifications and time served to accept as long as it’s legal.”
The three make up the entirety of the commission, making Solis the lone commissioner against appointing Banda the new mayor pro-tem.
However, Solis had plenty of support from residents who attended the meeting.
One argued that Banda shouldn’t be allowed to vote for himself, while another kept insisting that Solis won her position. The same resident then suggested it might be time to reorganize everybody.
“ Congratulations, Mr. Banda,” Solis said after Banda and Flores approved the change. “It’s sad to see that you are lending yourself to something as low as this but, again, congratulations.”