Edinburg councilmembers pass charter amendment that would remove a felony indicted city official

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PHOTO: April 26, 2021 Sal Castro KVEO

EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The Edinburg City Council met for a special meeting on Friday to retouch on an amendment that would allow the city Charter to suspend or remove an elected official over a felony indictment.

The special meeting agenda items had only one topic for discussion, to reconsider the amendment that was proposed during a city meeting last October.

The original amendment proposed would suspend or remove an elected official upon felony indictment automatically.

For the charter amendment to take effect, Edinburg residents would have to vote to approve it during the November city elections.

Councilmember Johnny Garcia asked to revisit the item because the deadline to submit an item to the ballot for the city elections is this week.

One of the main reasons Garcia brought it up was to ask City Attorney Omar Ochoa if the item was unconstitutional because he wouldn’t want to give “false hope” to the community.

Councilmember David White asked Ochoa the same question— if the amendment was unconstitutional. Ochoa responded that if the council wanted to talk about the legality, it would have to be done in the executive session as a legal consultation.

Mayor Pro-Tem Jorge Salinas added that he was against the amendment since last October because he considers it to be unconstitutional, and it would only cost the city money through litigation.

Salinas added that the amendment proposed was “clearly” for Mayor Richard Molina, and called it “the Molina law.”

In April 2019 Molina was arrested for voter fraud. There was a string of arrests the state’s election fraud unit made in connection with what Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton described as “an organized illegal voting scheme” in the November 2017 municipal election.

The court previously scheduled Molina’s jury trial for June 1, 2020, but the pandemic led to a delay.

After the executive session, the council reconsidered the amendment, and instead of automatically removing or suspending it, the council will have to vote on the matter, excluding the elected official subject to removal.

Garcia was the first to do a motion to adopt the charter amendment, and Salinas seconded. The charter amendment then passed three to one, in which Molina cast the “nay” vote.

The council then approved the special election three to one, Molina opposing.

The Charter amendment will only be enacted if it is passed by residents during the November 2 city election.

The Charter amendment reads as follows:

1. Any elected official of the City may, by a majority vote of the members of City Council not including the elected official who is the subject of the removal, be suspended from office upon that elected official being indicted for a felony while serving as an elected official of the City.

2. The elected official against whom removal is sought shall be entitled to reasonable notice that the issue of his or her suspension shall be heard by City Council and shall be permitted to testify in his or her own behalf and present such other relevant evidence as determined by the majority of the other members of Council at such Council meeting.

3. Council shall be the sole judge of the grounds constituting suspension from office. Council shall initiate the process to establish grounds for suspension from office by motion.

4. Upon a vote by a majority of the members of Council, other than the elected official who is the subject of the suspension, that grounds exist which subject such elected official to suspension from office, Council shall instruct the City Secretary to notify the elected official in writing of such suspension.

5. Such suspension shall terminate upon (a) the dismissal of the indictment; (b) a conviction for a crime other than a felony; or (c) a conviction for a felony

6. This section shall not apply to felony indictments that occurred prior to enactment of the section.

Click here to watch the full meeting.

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