MCALLEN, Texas – The Hidalgo County Republican Party’s executive committee has apologized to a Texas Public Radio reporter for confiscating her cell phone during an open meeting.

Carolina Cuellar said she attended the meeting because one of her sources and an alleged victim of sexual assault by Aron Peña, Brandy Perez, had prepared a speech to accompany her motion to remove Hidalgo County Chairwoman, Adrienne Peña-Garza, from her position. 

Cuellar had the cell phone confiscated to prevent her recording the meeting. Republican leaders of the local party gave the phone back to her after the meeting had concluded.

To read Cuellar’s news story, click here.

Texas Public Radio reporter Carolina Cuellar

Aron Peña is a longtime Republican Party operative and former district director for U.S. Rep. Mayra Flores. His sister is Adrienne Peña-Garza. Their father is former state Rep. Aaron Peña of Edinburg. 

Texas Public Radio has been leading the coverage on Aron Peña. They have reported that a lawsuit has been filed by an alleged victim of sexual assault against Aron Peña and his sister.

Aron Peña vigorously denies claims that he has committed sexual assault against young women going back decades. 

Speaking about Cuellar having her phone confiscated, Morgan Cisneros Graham, the Cameron County Republican Party chair, told Texas Public Radio: “The behavior was undermining the foundation and values of the GOP as an institution.”

Cuellar said she was left frustrated by the experience.

“This is my job. I report on things and I share that information with the public. And see this as a really important story. Teens have reported being groomed and assaulted by a prominent member of the local (GOP) chapter and I think the public should know what is going on. By telling me I cannot record and then taking my phone, Hidalgo County GOP leadership is denying public accountability and asserting they don’t care about transparency, wrote Cuellar, in her news story.”

Ironically, Aaron Peña, when he was a state representative, was known as a champion for transparency in government. A legislative resolution in his honor, authored in 2013 by his successor in District 40, state Rep. Terry Canales, said in part: “he was pioneering in his use of Internet media to increase government transparency and better interact with constituents.”

Aaron Peña is running for the 13th Court of Appeals on the Republican ticket.