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HIDALGO, RGV – The Rio Grande Guardian suspected the City of Hidalgo would not take kindly to BorderFest Association’s announcement that it wants to move BorderFest to McAllen.

And that is exactly the case, according to Dan Rios, an attorney who has brought in by the city to protect its interests through litigation.

In response to remarks made by McAllen Mayor Jim Darling on News Talk 710 KURV, Rios says McAllen is attempting to “steal” BorderFest from the City of Hidalgo. He is also not pleased with the role McAllen Assistant City Manager Joe Vera has played in proceedings.

“We are seeking injunctive relief. It is our position that the City of Hidalgo holds all the rights to BorderFest and all the rights to its name. Apparently, the City of McAllen has contracted with Hidalgo’s former city manager, Joe Vera, who now works for the City of McAllen, to conduct a new BorderFest in McAllen. But, it is our position that neither McAllen nor Vera has the right to use the name or promote or conduct the event. So, as an attorney working on behalf of the City of Hidalgo, we see this matter as having to be pursued in litigation, unfortunately.” Rios said.

Rios said he was particularly upset with the actions of Vera, who served as city manager of Hidalgo for the best part of 20 years. Vera joined McAllen as its assistant city manager two years ago.

“While he was an employee of the City of Hidalgo Joe Vera claims he appropriated the BorderFest name. So, the City of McAllen has now contracted with its own assistant city manager to basically steal this event from Hidalgo. It is outrageous conduct. For the City of McAllen to contract with its own assistant city manager on this is outrageous,” Rios said.

“It is unfortunate the City of McAllen did not do its due diligence. They would have realized their assistant city manager has no authority when he claimed he took the BorderFest name and rights; that he actually tried to take it from his own employer, the City of Hidalgo, back when he was their city manager. His conduct is reprehensible and it is unfortunate that the McAllen leadership is just following along with his reprehensible conduct.”

Rios made his remarks in interviews with the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio soon after the City of McAllen held a news conference Friday morning about BorderFest. At the news conference, Mayor Darling said:

“Our understanding is the BorderFest Board and the City of Hidalgo had two different directions that they wanted to take. We were advised by some BorderFest members that discussions occurred with the City of Hidalgo where it was determined that the relationship was irreconcilable. Our understanding is that BorderFest is a Texas non-profit unincorporated association, under 501-C3 of the tax code and therefore can choose the venue in which their event is held.”

Darling said this year’s event will be held at the McAllen Convention Center March 3 through March 6. He said the event’s theme will be “Celebrate the Best of Texas,” with BorderFest organizers showcasing Texas-sized exhibits hailing from San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth.

“I want to reiterate that this request came independently from the BorderFest Board to McAllen,” said Darling. “The City will be making available the Convention Center as a venue, will provide personnel and a sponsorship for this year’s BorderFest and possibly in the future.”

Rios said Hidalgo’s BorderFest will go ahead as scheduled in early March with the theme staying the same as previously announced, A Celebration of Brazil.

Rios said he disputes claims that BorderFest does not belong to the residents of Hidalgo. “For 39 years the residents and taxpayers of Hidalgo have funded this event and promoted this event. They are very upset with the City of McAllen’s rude and ridiculous behavior here.”

Gracie Perez, a resident of Hidalgo agreed. “It is a joke. BorderFest is not a carnival that can move from city to city. BorderFest is an event sponsored and created by community members, not Joe Vera, not John David Franz. It is the community, it is two communities (Hidalgo and Reynosa), it is two countries. That is why they have the Abrazo. It is not about (Border) Texan of the Year. Yes, we are proud of Texas. We are proud of our community too,” Perez said.

In a separate interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, attorney Rios said: “Joe Vera’s personal attorney notified the City of Hidalgo that he copyrighted the BorderFest name in 2005 while he was the City of Hidalgo’s manager. While he was city manager he was totally involved every year in the planning of BorderFest. For 30 years leading up to the time he asserts ownership of the copyright, the City of Hidalgo created this BorderFest, promoted it, nurtured it. For the city manager to appropriate city property and intellectual property such as a trademark or a copyright is simply outrageous. Clearly it is unethical.”

Vera finished the interview by asking why, if he has control of BorderFest, Vera did not take it with him to McAllen two years ago.

“Joe Vera did not assert his so-called rights to BorderFest last year. This is the first time he has asserted it, yesterday or the day before. He did nothing to stop the City of Hidalgo from promoting the event last year and up until yesterday he did not do anything to assert any interest in BorderFest this year. He knows full well that the 40th anniversary of BorderFest is a very significant event for Hidalgo. It has already been planned, is already in place. The City of Hidalgo has already spent a lot of money promoting this event.”

Asked what the mood of Hidalgo residents and its city leadership is, Rios said: “The mood is one of shock. It is shocking conduct by the former city manager. The city leadership is appalled and upset, understandably. They are also upset with the City of McAllen’s leadership. The cities of Hidalgo and McAllen partner up on many inter-local activities for the benefit of the residents of Hidalgo and McAllen. To simply ignore Hidalgo’s rights and interests in the BorderFest event is quite shocking and appalling.”

Among the leaders of the BorderFest Association are former banker Glen Roney and former Hidalgo Mayor John David Franz. The group issued this statement on Thursday:

“BorderFest Association, a 501 (C3) non-profit organization is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2016. After 39 wonderful years in partnership with the City of Hidalgo where great events, concerts and quality of life venues have existed and created lasting relationships, BorderFest has determined that in order to succeed and grow a new direction is necessary.

“Therefore, the BorderFest Board has decided to provide a new venue for this 40th Anniversary. We have asked the City of McAllen to consider hosting this event moving forward and after much consideration the City of McAllen has graciously accepted.

“McAllen has been a partner with the City of Hidalgo for many decades including a partnership at two international bridges and will continue to do so.

“McAllen is excited to accommodate this prestigious event, which has become one of the most iconic in the region.”

“We invite everyone in the Rio Grande Valley to continue to support BorderFest.”

Editor’s Note: We will bring the views of McAllen Assistant City Manager Joe Vera about BorderFest as soon as they become available.

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