MISSION, RGV – It’s Salinas v. Salinas again in Mission, Texas.
Back in 2012 Mission community activist Ester Salinas won a defamation case in the Texas Supreme Court against Mission Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas. Mayor Salinas had said Ester Salinas had defamed him during a rowdy town hall meeting. A state district court agreed but the Supreme Court upheld an appeals court ruling.
Now, Ester Salinas is back, with a complaint lodged with the Texas Ethics Commission over Mayor Salinas’ campaign finance reports. The complaint alleges Mayor Salinas failed to report expenditures related to his opposition to a healthcare district in Hidalgo County. Mayor Salinas says he has filed campaign reports, with the City of Mission.
In her complaint to the Texas Ethics Commission, Ester Salinas pointed out that Mayor Salinas has appointed a campaign treasurer for the purpose of filing his campaign finance reports. “As such, Mr. Salinas is required to file campaign finance reports as a ‘candidate’ under the Election Code and the Texas Ethics Commission’s (“TEC”) rules,” the complaint states.
Candidates are required to file two reports each year, one on Jan. 15 and the other on July 15. In her complaint, Ester Salinas alleges that Mayor Salinas “violated Tex. Elec. Code No. 254.063 (b) and 1 Tex. Admin. Code No. 20211 (b) by failing to file a semi-annual report between July 1, 2015, and July 15, 2015, and by failing to file a semi-annual report between July 1, 2016, and July 15, 2016.”
Ester Salinas says Mayor Salinas “has been making campaign expenditures by expending funds to run political advertising opposing the passage of Hidalgo County Proposition 1, which appears on the November 8, 2016, general election ballot.” Additionally, she said, as these expenditures do not appear to constitute campaign contributions to any political committee, these campaign expenditures also constitute “direct campaign expenditures.”
“When a person makes direct campaign expenditures in excess of $100 that person must file reports as if they were the treasurer of a general-purpose committee that doesn’t file monthly reports. When a general-purpose committee is “involved” in an election its campaign treasurer, in addition to its semi-annual reports, must file two additional reports,” Ester Salinas’ complaint states.
Ester Salinas said the first report is due no later than the 30th day before the election and covers political contributions received and political expenditures made through the 40th day before the election.
“This means the report would be due by Oct. 9, 2016 and would cover political contributions received and political expenditures made on or before Sept. 29, 2016. Because Mr. Salinas has made political expenditures in opposition to a measure to be voted on in an election, he has violated Section 254.261 of the Election Code by failing to file the required report by Oct. 9, 2016,” Ester Salinas’ complaint states.
Ester Salinas says Mayor Salinas appointed Ms. Maria Chapa as his campaign treasurer. “Based upon information and belief, for 2015 and 2016 the City of Mission Secretary, who Mr. Salinas files his campaign finance reports with, shows that Mr. Salinas has filed only two campaign finance reports, one January 15, 2015, and one on January 15, 2016. An information request was made to the City of Mission Secretary for all campaign finance reports filed by Mr. Salinas in 2015 and 2016 and these are the only two reports that the Secretary sent to the requestor as of Oct. 28, 2016,” Ester Salinas’ complaint states.
“Although Mr. Salinas does not appear as a candidate on the November 8, 2016 general election ballot, he has been making expenditures from his campaign account to fund political advertising opposing the passage of Hidalgo County Proposition 1, which appears on the November 8, 2016 general election ballot and relates to the creation of the Hidalgo County Healthcare District.”
Ester Salinas said this political advertising would have exceeded $100.00.
Mayor Salinas told the Rio Grande Guardian that he was not surprised Ester Salinas had made a complaint. “I sued her last time and got a judgment against her. After that she agreed to stay quiet,” Mayor Salinas said.
Mayor Salinas said he filed a campaign finance report on Monday, Oct. 31, to comply with a legal requirement that reports must be filed eight days before an election.
“We did file it. Check with the City. We filed with the City, zero, zero, zero. I have spent money on the healthcare district campaign so I filed a report with the City, eight days before the election,” Mayor Salinas said. “If the Ethics Commission wants to see my stuff we can send it over there. No big deal.”
Mayor Salinas recommended the Rio Grande Guardian contact Mission City Secretary Anna Carrillo.
Carrillo told the Rio Grande Guardian: “The Mayor’s responsibilities on campaign reporting when he is not on the ballot is, 30 days before Election Day, and then 8 Days before an election. In an off-year you file a semi-annual report. One is due Jan. 15. This is all on the Ethics Commission Website – one is filed on Jan. 15 and the other one is filed July 15. Him not being on the ballot means he does not fall under the 30 days and 8 days’ rule. He does file his semi-annuals, which in an off year is zero, zero, zero. On this one he filed one yesterday. I advised him that he is not on the schedule to file one but he went ahead and submitted a report yesterday. But, his next report is not officially due until the 15th of January.”
Carrillo said that when a campaign involves a local municipality campaign finance reports are not filed with the Ethics Commission. “They do the judges and the state races. Local authorities file with the local authorities. The report he (Mayor Salinas) filed yesterday shows activity starting in August but that is not due until January. The semi-annual is from July 1 to December 31. He filed a report with me yesterday which did not need to be filed because he was thinking of the 8 days before Election Day rule. The report is there because he filed it but it was not necessary due to the schedule that municipalities work to. He is not on the November ballot.”