BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Associate Judge Louis Sorola late Wednesday afternoon dissolved a temporary restraining order that sought to prevent Mario Lozoya from becoming executive director of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.
The plaintiff, GBIC board member Nurith Galonsky, was quizzed about the TRO she brought. She argued that GBIC violated the open meetings act and did not have the authority to appoint an executive director.
Brownsville City Commissioner César De León, who chairs GBIC, negotiated the deal with Lozoya. He and the group’s outside counsel, René Oliveira, argued that state law and local ordinances were followed and that GBIC had the authority to hire an executive director.
Lozoya previously served as governmental relations and external affairs director for Toyota Corporation in San Antonio. GBIC is the City of Brownsville’s economic development arm.
Asked for reaction after the judge’s ruling, Galonsky said: “I would rather not saying anything or go on the record.” Asked if she was disappointed by the ruling, she said: “I am disappointed but at least I tried.” Asked what her next steps would be, Galonsky said: “I will have to get together with my lawyer and see what the next option is.”
De León looked relieved. Asked for his reaction, he said he was pleased the judge had dissolved the TRO.
“The contract is valid and we can now proceed with Mario Lozoya as executive director. I believe the judge was correct on the law. We had submitted everything. We had done everything according to the law. We are always very careful to keep in line with all of the state statutes and local ordinances.”
Asked if the case was now over, De León said: “We hope it is over. GBIC will now continue to carry out its duties. We will fulfill our mission, which is to bring economic development to the great city of Brownsville and to work for all of our citizens.”
Asked when Lozoya will start work, De León said: “Mario has been ready to start and he is ready to hit the ground running. We have a lot of projects we want to get going. This is something that is going to benefit everybody, not only Brownsville but the entire Rio Grande Valley.”
In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, De León turned defense into attack.
“One of the things I want to ask about the plaintiff is, she sits as the chairman of the public utility board and I think she now owes an answer to every single taxpayer on why our utility rates are 33 percent higher and why PUB has $100 million stashed away. I think it is now her duty to explain to the taxpayers why she is doing this, her motive and why she is trying to stall progress for this great community.”
De León claimed the $100 million has been “stashed away” for “a project that she has never been transparent about called Tenaska.”
Tenaska is developing a site on 270 acres north of Brownsville on the 511 Corridor at Old Alice Road for a natural gas-fueled generating station capable of producing 800 megawatts of electricity.
“I think now, with this (ruling), we as a community are now calling on Ms. Galonsky to respond and let us know why she has not done anything about the utility rates as chairman of PUB.”
As for GBIC, De León said: “I want to let people know we will continue to fight the good fight. That we are here for everybody. And that they only way we are going to move forward is as a community and that we have to fight for it because nothing is going to be handed to us. We have to stick together and we have to do everything for the best of our children and our citizens.”
De León added: “Hopefully, we will have Mario begin tomorrow. We want to hit the ground running and let the Valley and the state of Texas know we are open for business.”
Oliveira, outgoing state representative for Brownsville, was brought in as outside counsel for GBIC. In his concluding remarks Oliveira said if the City of Brownsville has a problem with GBIC the remedy is to dissolve it. He also said that if injunctive relief continued to be sought the court would hear about “scandalous information” regarding the old Brownsville Economic Development Corporation. BEDC previously administered economic development for the City of Brownsville.
After the court hearing, Oliveira told the Rio Grande Guardian:
“I am very pleased the court followed the law and did not get involved in legislating policy. I think GBIC is doing its job in trying to get the best possible person. Our city is in some chaos right now, as I mentioned, without a city manager, without a city attorney and these agencies have to function.
“When we have projects like SpaceX and others, we have to do what we can to attract industry and keep it here. This man’s (Lozoya) workforce development training is critical. The select committee I was sitting on and others have found that we can’t fill the jobs that need filling because we don’t have enough workforce development. This (appointment) is going to be a new incentive for that to continue.”
Editor’s Note: Click here to listen to a podcast of the Rio Grande Guardian’s in-depth interview with Mario Lozoya and César De León.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows César De León in court on Wednesday, July 18, 2018.