Search for next Edinburg city attorney continues

Edinburg City Hall is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy: City of Edinburg/Facebook)
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EDINBURG — The city council here is one step closer to finding Edinburg’s next city attorney after interviewing at least three more candidates last week.

The interviews occurred during a lengthy city council meeting Tuesday, where the council spent three hours behind closed doors to discuss several matters confidentially, including the potential appointment of a new city attorney.

At least four more people have applied to be the next city attorney since the council first conducted interviews in mid-May.

At the time, the council spoke with two former federal prosecutors — Robert “Bobby” Wells Jr. and Patricia Rigney.

Rigney served as the Pharr city attorney until that city terminated her contract in favor of former Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez Jr.

Rigney also sat for an interview last month with the city of Mission just one day before she met with the Edinburg City Council, according to the Progress Times.

Ultimately, Rigney accepted Mission’s $230,000 offer to serve as its in-house attorney.

Since then, four more people have applied for the job.

The city released the applications and resumes of two of those candidates in response to a Texas Public Information Act request by The Monitor.

Two others who were present for interviews Tuesday evening tossed their names in the hat sometime after the newspaper submitted its request on June 19.

Each of the current round of candidates have public sector experience, including several who worked at the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office, worked in municipal law, or for state government.

The council began by interviewing Josephine L. “Josie” Ramirez.

Ramirez currently works as an assistant city attorney for the city of McAllen, officials in that city confirmed.

Prior to joining McAllen, Ramirez led Hidalgo County’s civil litigation division as chief assistant district attorney during Rodriguez’s tenure.

That position often required Ramirez to advise the Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court, according to a biography listed on a Texas Bar website for government lawyers.

Ramirez also served more than a decade in private practice as a civil litigation attorney. She earned her law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law, as well as a Master of Business Administration from the Texas Tech University College of Business.

The city council next interviewed Carlos Y. Benavides IV, a Laredo native who also spent a stint at the Hidalgo County DA’s office.

Benavides currently runs his own law firm, CYB Law Firm, out of Austin, and previously worked as an associate attorney practicing estate and fiduciary law for Austin firm, Ikard Law, his resume shows.

Prior to that, Benavides served at the DA’s office for four years, prosecuting human trafficking cases — a position which garnered him a six-year gubernatorial appointment to the Specialty Courts Advisory Council in 2019.

During his tenure at the county, Benavides also served as the felony prosecutor for the 389th state District Court, and as the domestic violence specialty court prosecutor for County Court-at-Law No. 1, his resume states.

Benavides earned his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law after earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from Marymount University in Virginia.

Lastly, the Edinburg council interviewed La Joya native Isaac Sulemana.

Sulemana currently serves as the chief of staff for Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez, a position he has held for more than five years.

Like Ramirez and Benavides before him, Sulemana spent a portion of his legal career within the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office.

He served as a prosecutor within that office’s border prosecution unit and within the DA’s office civil litigation department.

In January 2023, the city of La Joya named Sulemana its city attorney.

Sulemana earned his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law, and a Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University.

A fourth person — Esther Peña — also applied for the Edinburg city attorney job.

Peña currently serves as an attorney with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department — a position she began last September, according to her resume.

Prior to that, Peña worked just under a year as a deputy city attorney for the city of Mission.

Peña cites the reason for her departure from Mission as a change in city administration. Mission terminated her employment in February 2023 after hiring her in March 2022.

In January of this year, Peña filed suit against Mission, alleging a hostile work environment created by then city attorney, Victor Flores, and then City Manager Randy Perez.

The city has since denied Peña’s allegations.

Prior to her brief appointment in Mission, Peña worked for a number of state agencies, including the Office of the Attorney General, the Health and Human Services Commission, and two stints at the Department of Family and Protective Services, her resume shows.

Between 2019 and today, Peña has not served more than 11 months in one position.

The Edinburg council made no official announcements when they emerged from their executive session discussions at nearly 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, though they did unanimously call for current Edinburg City Attorney Omar Ochoa to “proceed as discussed.”