Edinburg mayor wants DA’s office kicked off voter fraud case

Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina wants Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez Jr. and his staff tossed from the prosecution and investigation of the voter fraud case against him.

In a Wednesday filing, Molina’s attorney, Carlos A. Garcia, says Rodriguez has obvious and acknowledged conflicts of interest that violate the mayor’s due process right to a disinterested prosecutor.

Molina is charged by indictment with engaging in organized voter fraud along with 11 counts of illegal voting.

He has pleaded not guilty and has maintained his innocence since his arrest, arguing he is being targeted by powerful political powers in Hidalgo County.

In the motion, Garcia says Rodriguez is a member of the extended Palacios family, which before he was elected held numerous positions and lucrative relationships within the city of Edinburg.

The motion says Rodriguez is Toribio “Terry” Palacios’ nephew. He is the city of Edinburg’s municipal judge and is partners in a law firm with Richard Garcia, the city’s longtime mayor who lost to Molina in the 2017 municipal elections, which is when the Texas Attorney General’s Office alleges voter fraud occurred.

The DA’s office is prosecuting the case along with the AG’s office and assisted in the investigation.

“Further, when he was serving on City Council (prior to the 2017 mayoral election), Richard Molina was approached by the District Attorney’s aunt, Mary Alice Palacios, who invited him to lunch,” the motion stated. “At the lunch, Mary Alice Palacios revealed that she wanted Molina’s vote to terminate the City’s relationship with 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.”

According to Molina’s motion, she noted that her nephew, Buddy Palacios, who is Rodriguez’s first cousin, and herself would be subcontractors under the new firm.

However, Molina believed Guerra’s services were fine and he voted against the change while the council’s majority and Garcia voted for the change.

“Mary Alice Palacios worked as a subcontractor gaining substantial compensation under the contract,” the motion said.

When Molina was elected, the new council voted to terminate the contract.

And it is Mary Alice Palacios who filed a report with the Texas Attorney General’s Office alleging Molina committed voter fraud.

These relationships, and statements made to The Monitor by Rodriguez after Molina’s arrest regarding a potential conflict of interest that didn’t result in a recusal, are the reason why Molina is seeking to have Rodriguez and his office disqualified.

“District Attorney Rodriguez has an intolerable conflict of interest. Rodriguez is investigating and prosecuting Molina for alleged election offenses arising from the same election that brought Richard Molina to the mayor’s office, who, along with a new council majority, terminated the City contract under which Mary Alice Palacios was working,” the motion said. “Further, faced with Molina in the mayor’s office and a new majority on Council, the District Attorney’s cousin resigned his lucrative position as Edinburg City Attorney, and his brother-in-law had already been displaced from the Council in the face of Molina’s criticism for conflicts of interest.”

Molina is scheduled to appear Thursday for his first court appearance since the pandemic after prosecutors filed a motion to set a jury trial date just days before early voting.

Molina is running for reelection and Election Day is Nov. 2.