Edinburg City Councilman Gilbert Enriquez announced his resignation from the council, the city stated in a news release Wednesday morning.
Enriquez, whose resignation as Place 2 councilman was effective Tuesday, also served as mayor pro-tem for the city.
“The Edinburg City Council expressed their well-wishes for Councilmember Enriquez and thanked him for his dedication, contributions, and years of service to the residents of Edinburg,” the city stated in the release.
The council has accepted his resignation and is considering how to proceed, the statement said, adding that the city charter allows the remaining council members to appoint a replacement.
In his own statement issued Wednesday, Enriquez said that he resigned voluntarily to hold himself accountable after a relative was hired for the city fire department.
Just last month, Enriquez announced his intent to run for mayor in the city’s general elections in November and said it was when he was contemplating his run that he began reflecting on the situation.
“In considering whether to run for mayor of Edinburg, I re-evaluated everything that has happened in Edinburg while I’ve been a council member, including that my nephew was hired by the Edinburg Fire Department as a fire fighter,” Enriquez wrote.
Enriquez noted that he didn’t know his nephew had applied for the position until discovering he had been hired and said neither he or the council were involved in the hiring process. Enriquez added that his nephew had not used his name to get the job and that the fire chief was not even aware the man was Enriquez’s nephew.
He cited an opinion from the Texas Attorney General’s office that concluded that a situation like that wouldn’t violate state law.
Several opinions over the years have clarified that the hiring of a city councilman’s relative does not violate the state’s nepotism laws as long as the city’s charter states that the city manager and not the council is responsible for the hiring and firing of city employees.
So while such employment is legal per state law, the city has set its own nepotism policy that prohibits relatives of any city council member — including spouses, children, parents, those who share an ancestor — from working for the city.
“A prospective employee or an employee related within the third degree of consanguinity, or within the second degree of affinity, to any member of the City Council shall not be employed by the city,” the policy stated.
City Councilman Johnny Garcia hoped to change the nepotism policy in October to allow his daughter to qualify to work as a police officer for the city, but the council voted against the change during a meeting on Oct. 6.
Still, Enriquez insisted his actions did not violate any city ordinances because he was not involved in the hiring process at all and those responsible for his nephew’s hiring were not aware of the relationship.
“But, the fact that I didn’t do anything illegal isn’t the point,” Enriquez continued. “The point is that in my judgment in this instance I decided it does not look good for Edinburg. And if it doesn’t look good for Edinburg, then I am not in favor of it and I should be accountable.”
He reiterated in his statement that no one asked him to resign and said no one raised the issue of his nephew’s employment.
“I intend to continue to insist that the council and mayor be accountable and transparent,” Enriquez stated, “and I believe by resigning and explaining the reason for the resignation, I am holding myself to the same standards of accountability and transparency.”
If he were to be elected mayor in November, Enriquez said in a phone call Wednesday afternoon that the city would reevaluate the situation at that point and he would comply with whatever the law stated regarding nepotism.