Edinburg voters OK measure that would suspend indicted elected officials

Vehicles line up to vote outside the Hidalgo County Election Annex on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Edinburg voters on Tuesday approved a charter amendment that would allow for the suspension of elected officials who are indicted on a felony charge.

The decision was overwhelming, with 5,638 people voting for the amendment while just 1,552 opposed the change, according to unofficial results.

The city council voted 3-1 in August to place the proposed amendment on the November ballot. The amendment requires a majority vote for suspension and allows for an elected official accused in a felony indictment to testify on their behalf in front of the city council.

Current Mayor Richard Molina is facing an indictment alleging 11 counts of voter fraud and a single count of engaging in organized voter fraud over allegations stemming from the November 2017 municipal election, when he was elected as the city’s mayor.

Molina has maintained his innocence since his arrest and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

During the August meeting, Molina was the only vote against moving forward with the charter amendment election, which would not apply to him because he was indicted long before the city council made the proposal.

“I don’t think this has anything to do with integrity,” Molina said at the time. “It has to be done with fairness. There’s 940 plus cities in the state of Texas, 254 counties. This ordinance doesn’t exist on any of those and to think that Edinburg is even considering this is pretty shameful.”

One of Molina’s opponents in the election, former City Councilman Gilbert Enriquez, initially proposed the amendment.

“I don’t see this as a political issue, I see this as a common sense issue,” Enriquez previously told The Monitor. “I mean, why would any taxpayer, citizen, constituent in the city of Edinburg want to have an indicted, a felony-indicted elected official representing them and the tax dollars?”

The city council also discussed whether the charter amendment was constitutional during that meeting and after an executive session with city attorney Omar Ochoa, the council approved the item.

As for the mayoral election, Molina trailed by 37 votes with 100% of precincts reporting and is heading to a runoff against former city manager Ramiro Garza.

Garza received 43.5% of the vote with 3,498 people casting ballots while Molina received 43% with 3,461 ballots cast for the incumbent.