Results of this November’s municipal elections in Edinburg told a story: citizens are tired of the corruption surrounding Mayor Richard Molina and the city council, and they voted to bring transparency and change to the city. They elected David White to Place 4 on the city commission over an ally of the mayor, and they denied another of Molina’s allies a majority needed to avoid a runoff.
The race for Place 3 is still ongoing, but the new majority is wasting no time bringing changes to the city. On the chopping block: the city secretary, city manager, four members of the Economic Development Corporation Board, and two municipal court judges.
After swearing in newly elected city commissioner White, one of the first orders of business was to terminate city secretary Ludivina Leal. Leal is currently facing charges of illegal voting in the city’s 2018 mayoral election. Mayor Molina, who is also charged with organized election fraud in the same case, had voted to retain Leal on all previous attempts to remove her. In her place, the city appointed Joe Rios.
The city council also appointed a new Mayor Pro-Tem, Homer Jasso Jr., over the objections of the mayor, and replaced the city manager with a new interim city manager. The outgoing manager negotiated a $225,000 severance package, and the city agreed to give the new interim appointee a $225,000 salary with no severance, no benefits, and a 30-day out clause.
These moves drew criticism from Mayor Molina, who said it was a waste of taxpayer dollars. Councilman Gilbert Enriquez pointed out the city manager was entitled to $500,000 severance under a new contract he signed earlier this year—a contract in which Molina also awarded the manager a heavily criticized $25,000 raise.
The city also removed and replaced four of the five members of the Economic Development Corporation board, as well as removed two municipal court judges. Among those appointed to the EDC board was Enriquez, who previously served on the board but was removed by the mayor and his allies. Enriquez told The Monitor he was removed because the board did not want him to have “knowledge of any of the transactions that they were doing, that they were approving.” Enriquez has filed a lawsuit against the city and EDC.
As Edinburg is in political turmoil, the race for Place 3 continues into the runoff, as Deanna “Coach” Dominguez, an ally of the mayor, faces off against Juan “Johnny” Garcia. Dominguez was also present at the city meetings to voice her opinions against the motions of the council. The runoff is set for December 10.