FBI conducting ‘law enforcement activities’ at La Joya City Hall

(Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

Update: 7:48 p.m.

LA JOYA — Agents with the FBI conducted a search of La Joya City Hall offices Friday morning, though the purpose of the search remains unclear.

City Administrator Jacqueline Bazan said the agents arrived at city hall around 8:15 a.m. with a standard search warrant that she said did not offer any details on what, specifically, they were looking for.

“What I’ve been told is that they are looking into certain matters, they will not disclose what matters those are,” Bazan said. “I’ve actually looked at (the search warrant) myself and it does appear standard. It doesn’t mention any details in particular as to what they will be reviewing but, again, that’s as much as they’ve been letting us know.”

A spokesperson for the FBI, Special Agent Michelle Lee, said no arrests had been made.

Part of city hall was shut down due to the search, disrupting the city’s main phone lines. However, Bazan assured the police department was unaffected.

City staff also had to leave their offices and move to the police department while the search was ongoing. Bazan said the agents gave no indication they would be interviewing the staff.

Robert Jackson, the former city attorney for La Joya who resigned in 2017, speculated that the agents were investigating misuse of public funds for personal use.

“As we all know, funds coming in here are either through our federal government or our taxpayers and you have a fiduciary duty to take care of those funds,” he said. “My understanding is that there’s been quite a few questionable purchases done by the city hall.”

Jackson is currently supporting Isidro Casanova against current Mayor Jose “Fito” Salinas in the November city elections.

Jackson accused the current administration of corruption in support of Casanova’s candidacy, alleging individuals had dipped into public funds for their personal benefit and that questionable loans had been issued through the Economic Development Corporation.

Salinas said he saw Jackson’s presence at city hall as an indication it was all political.

The mayor said he didn’t want to speculate on what the agents were looking into but said he was aware that the FBI had spoken to their former city administrator, Mike Alaniz.

Alaniz retired from the city at the end of June but his attorney, Rick Salinas, confirmed he was the focus of a federal investigation.

Salinas, the La Joya mayor, said he was told he had to sign off on the inventory that the agents were going to remove from city hall.

“The thing about it is, how in the heck do I know what they’re taking?” he said. “I don’t keep inventory.”

“We don’t know what’s happening inside the building,” he added, referring to the agents’ search. “How can I sign something if I don’t know what they’re putting in the boxes.”

Of the situation, the mayor said he’d wait it out.

“Politics is politics and I’ll handle it that way,” he said.