Edinburg officials fielding city attorney candidates

Only have a minute? Listen instead
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

EDINBURG — City leaders here have begun the process of finding a successor to replace City Attorney Omar Ochoa, who announced his resignation in early April.

Ochoa agreed to continue providing legal services while city leaders looked for his replacement as the Edinburg city attorney position moves into a new era — one where that attorney will serve as a full-time, in-house city employee.

On Monday, the Edinburg City Council held a special meeting that marked the first concrete step forward into that new era.

There, it spent more than two hours behind closed doors to interview and discuss the bonafides of at least two candidates who have thrown their names in the hat.

The first was Robert “Bobby” Wells Jr., who last year retired from the McAllen Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

The second was Patricia Rigney, a McAllen attorney currently in private practice, but who also once served as a federal prosecutor and as the Pharr city attorney.

Wells, A Rio Grande Valley native, spent the bulk of his career as a federal prosecutor before retiring last year.

During his tenure, he prosecuted high profile cases against prison gang members, such as the Texas Syndicate, secured convictions in public corruption cases against crooked cops, and more.

Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Wells served as a state prosecutor.

Wells received an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas–Pan American, and earned his law degree from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.

He was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1991, records show.

Patricia Rigney, meanwhile, is a native of Pharr and fellow graduate of UTPA. She earned her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the bar in 2005, according to a biography on her firm’s website.

Lawyering is part of the family business for Patricia Rigney, who is the sister of John Villarreal Rigney, an Edinburg attorney who has twice sought to be the Democratic candidate in the race for the District 15 U.S. congressional seat.

Patricia Rigney spent 5 1/2 years as a federal prosecutor and spent some time as an appellate attorney for the 13th Court of Appeals under Justice Dori Contreras Garza.

Patricia Rigney also spent approximately seven years — from 2016 until 2023 — as the city of Pharr’s attorney and prosecutor.

However, last year, Pharr agreed to pay Patricia Rigney a $400,000 settlement for lost wages and “emotional distress” after abruptly replacing her with former Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez Jr.

Patricia Rigney still had a year left on her employment contract with Pharr when that city’s commission decided to replace her with Rodriguez.

Back in Edinburg, the city council did not announce a hiring decision once they emerged from their executive session discussions Monday evening.

Instead, they directed Ochoa, the current city attorney, to “proceed as discussed.”

Speaking after the meeting adjourned, Ochoa declined to answer questions from The Monitor over how many people have applied for the city attorney position.

He also declined to confirm the identities of the two lawyers who showed up to Monday’s meeting, citing the confidentiality of executive session discussions.

Instead, he directed the newspaper to file a request under the Texas Public Information Act for the names of the candidates who are seeking the Edinburg city attorney job.

The city has acknowledged receipt of the public information request.