Edinburg mayor asks court to remove DA’s office from voter fraud case

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FILE– Edinburg mayor Richard Molina and wife turn themselves into Texas Rangers. They are being arraigned by Justice of the Peace Pct. 2 in Edinburg .

EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina filed to have District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez’s office removed from the voter fraud case due to “intolerable conflict of interest.”

Molina and his wife Dalia turned themselves in April 2019 regarding multiple offenses of voter fraud for his 2017 mayoral election.

On Monday, Molina filed a motion explaining that after he was elected several of Rodriguez’s family members lost contracts and power within the city of Edinburg.

Rodriguez’s aunt Mary Alice Palacios invited Molina to lunch while he was a council member and Richard Garcia was mayor.

During the lunch, Mary asked Molina to vote to terminate “its then-current Health Insurance Agent of Record, Ronnie Guerra, and hire Gilberto Gonzalez of FBMC Benefits Management to take over the lucrative contract for managing the City’s employee health insurance plans.”

Mary noted to Molina that she and her nephew Buddy Palacios, who is also Rodriguez’s cousin, would be sub-contractors under Gonzalez’s firm, according to the document.

During the city meeting, Molina cast a nay vote, however, the rest of the council and the Mayor voted to terminate the contract with Guerra and hire Gonzalez, according to the document.

After Molina beat Garcia at the polls, and on Jan. 30, 2018 council members voted to terminate the contract with Gonzalez.

Reports later showed that Mary filed a “request for investigation” with the Secretary of State regarding voter fraud charges. The request was referred to the Attorney General’s office on Jan. 22, 2018, according to the document.

Municipal Judge Terry Palacios is Rodriguez’s uncle and has a law firm partnered with Former Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia.

While Garcia was in office, Rodriguez’s cousin Ricky Palacios was city attorney, and his brother-in-law J.R. Betancourt was part of the city council.

Rodriguez’s aunt Mary Alice Palacios invited Molina to lunch while he was a council member and Garcia was mayor.

However, when Molina ran for mayor in 2017, Betancourt declined to seek re-election to the city council “in the face of Molina’s vocal allegations of conflicts of interest.”

When Molina defeated Garcia at the polls in November 2017, Ricky Palacios resigned as city attorney.

The council led by Molina voted to terminate the contract with Gonzalez “thus terminating Mary Alice Palacios’s lucrative contract working in an industry in which she had little if any prior experience.”

Molina motioned that the Court disqualify Rodriguez and his office from any participation in the investigation or prosecution of this case, to avoid a violation of Molina’s due process rights.

Molina is seeking re-election as mayor and appearred at court on Thursday at 11 a.m.

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