A wave of positive change may be coming to the City of Edinburg.
The newly elected mayor, Richard Molina, along with his allies, Gilbert Enriquez (Place 1), and Jorge Salinas (Place 2), were recently sworn in at city hall on November 15.
Transformations commenced before the swearing-in when Edinburg’s city attorney Ricardo “Rick” Palacios resigned his position on November 13. In his resignation letter Palacios states his decision was based on the change in leadership in Edinburg.
“Changes are to be made starting today,” Molina said to a crowd of 200 people attending his swearing-in. “Today is about the people who have spoken and taken action.” In his speech, he attributed his desire to run for office to his early days as an Edinburg city police officer.
Molina made several commitments during his speech: term limits, separation of powers between the mayor and the economic development corporation, as well as better infrastructure for the city (roads, lighting, drainage).
Immediately after taking the oath of office, as promised, changes were underway as Molina and the new majority terminated several vendor contracts, such as one for legal services with Palacios Garza & Thompson, PC. In addition, the board amended the bylaws of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) relating to its composition and terms of office. Previously, former Mayor Richard Garcia, who controlled the Edinburg city council, was self-appointed as Board President of the EEDC by the help of former city council members.
Molina, with the unanimous support of the four city council members, appointed a new board of directors, eliminating the mayor’s control of the EEDC, at their first meeting on November 20. New members include: President Gilbert Enriquez, Vice-President Mike Farias, Secretary Isael Posadas as well as Julio Carranza and Dr. Noe Sauceda
Executive Director Agustin “Gus” Garcia who had served as the administration leader for the EEDC, had his contract terminated at the latest EEDC meeting on Tuesday, November 28. During deliberations on the EEDC Fiscal Year 2017–2018 Budget, the board questioned Garcia on various expenditures made in fiscal year 2017 relative to 2016 that neither correlate with the accounts they were under, nor with the taxpayers’ interests.
Line by line, a comprehensive review was conducted: pest control, lawn maintenances, equipment purchases, travel, office supplies, storage, personnel, benefits, payroll taxes, communications, legal services, miscellaneous, etc. It was readily apparent there had been a mis-categorization of expenses in different accounts.
For example, lawn services and American Express credit card purchases were both categorized under office expenses. EEDC President, Gilbert Enriquez commented, “I’d like to see this change.” And it did.
As a result the meeting lasted for six-hours ending at midnight with the termination of Garcia. “It’s about saving taxpayers money, being prudent with dollars, being a good steward of taxpayer money,” Enriquez stated. “It’s a financial responsibility and as an executive director, you are charged with all of that.” Especially, when being paid $160,000 annually (plus benefits), Enriquez concluded that the decision was based on the taxpayers’ interest, with the review concluding that Garcia allowed the EEDC to have a bloated budget during his four-year tenure.
It remains unclear who will take the newly vacated executive director position, as the board has yet to appoint an interim director.
Another much-needed change was the termination of a contract with Signature Advocacy, Inc.
At EEDC’s special meeting on November 20, the board unanimously voted to terminate all professional agreements with Signature Advocacy, Inc. run by Oberlyn “Obie” Salinas. Since June 2016, Salinas has received $6,333.00 per month from Edinburg taxpayers’, totaling over $100,000. He was hired for a dubious position, performing “liaison” services between various entities throughout the RGV, as well as at the state Capitol during legislative session.
Salinas’ most recent contract renewal over the summer was the subject of public scrutiny among residents for his failure to register with the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) as a lobbyist. Meanwhile, concerns were also raised over his forfeited company’s inactive status due to inconsistencies with Texas tax law, all while simultaneously serving as Chief of Staff for State Rep. Poncho Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass). Local taxpayers were right to question how a full-time legislative Chief of Staff was able to also work as a full-time unregistered lobbyist for the city. To say the least, it’s unethical and results in a conflict of interest between the two tax-funded clients. Ultimately, his contract was terminated, in part for billing EEDC bi-weekly for fraudulent meetings at the taxpayers’ expense.
These new changes are a result of new leadership demanded by the citizens of Edinburg. So far, Molina and his allies are fulfilling their campaign promises. Molina reassured voters at his swearing-in: “Get ready for an Edinburg like you’ve never seen before!”