Donna hires legislative consultant day after legislature adjourns

DONNA — The Donna Economic Development Corporation (4B) retained the services of a legislative consultant during a meeting Tuesday afternoon, one day after the state legislative session adjourned.

The EDC board agreed to hire Rigoberto “Rigo” Villarreal to be its legislative consultant during a meeting held at the Donna Recreation Center Tuesday afternoon, just minutes after a meeting of the Donna International Bridge Corporation.

The EDC approved Villarreal’s hiring just one day after the 87th Texas Legislature adjourned sine die. Though Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to call for a special session sometime this summer to continue pursuing an election reform bill, the legislature is not officially scheduled to meet again until January 2023.

When asked for details on Villarreal’s hiring, Donna City Manager Carlos Yerena declined to offer many details.

“They were actually gonna hire that consultant to move forward,” Yerena said of the EDC board’s decision.

When further pressed for details surrounding the timing of Villarreal’s hire — effectively after the legislature has concluded its biannual business and two years before it is set to convene again, Yerena said there are always issues for a municipality to deal with.

“There’s issues that are always available for us as we move forward with different items with the city. So, it’s good to have somebody on board where you can get things done,” Yerena said.

“There’s things in between now (and then) that you can do to get things lined up. They’re gonna help us with different items. Just different items that — bridge items, different matters relating to the city,” Yerena said.

The EDC agreed to pay Villarreal $4,500 per month for his services, or $54,000 per year.

Though Yerena declined to offer many specifics on what consulting services Villarreal will provide to the city, he did say those services involve the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge.

Villarreal has a long history with international commerce issues, having previously been under the employ of the city of McAllen as its bridge superintendent overseeing the Reynosa and Anzalduas bridges.

He was appointed to the position in 2010 and resigned in January 2020, after more than nine years with McAllen, according to Monitor archives.

Currently, Villarreal serves as a consultant for the city of Mission’s Madero international bridge project, which is not expected to begin construction for several years.

The Donna EDC board approved Villarreal’s hiring in a meeting that lasted one minute Tuesday afternoon — an EDC meeting that was preceded by a meeting of the Donna bridge board.

During that first meeting, the bridge board immediately retired to executive session after being called to order by Donna Mayor Rick Morales.

The sole item on the agenda read, “Discussion regarding legal issues with concerning (sic) bridge financial status.”

After speaking behind closed doors for approximately 20 minutes, the bridge board returned to open session and unanimously approved a motion “to proceed as discussed in executive session.”

Asked what action the bridge board had authorized him to execute, the city manager declined to say.

“The action was to move forward as discussed in executive session. There’s certain matters dealing with the bridge, but basically, we’re moving forward. That’s pretty much (what) I can tell you,” Yerena said.

“We’re moving forward with certain things and as they come up, as they need approval from the commission, we’ll bring it to the commission. This is just to update them as to what’s going on,” he said.

Yerena added that the city’s plans to expand the bridge’s commercial capacities continue apace. Construction of the southbound lanes has been completed, and planning of the northbound lanes is underway, he said.