EDINBURG, RGV – Edinburg mayoral candidate Richard Molina may have issues with the way the city council and its economic development corporation is being run, but that does not mean he wants to fire its top directors.
Molina, a city council member, has voted against the Edinburg EDC budget and questioned city policy on issues such as parks and drainage. But, he has put out a video saying the jobs of all key staff members are safe. And, in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Molina says he has no problems with Gus Garcia, the executive director of Edinburg EDC.
In a “Molina for Mayor” video, the interviewer asks: “We are going to take on a very tough question that the City of Edinburg and a lot of their employees are concerned about. We have heard that a lot of employees are worried about their job and that they may not have it when you are elected. Can you please explain your thoughts on that?”
Molina responds: “Absolutely, that is a question I have also heard in the coffee shops throughout the City of Edinburg. The answer to your question is, many people do not understand that the mayor doesn’t have the power to pretty much hire and fire without a consensus of the council. The mayor and the council are not in charge or hiring or firing any of the directors. We are only in charge of the city manager, the city secretary and the city attorney.
“So, do I have any intentions of firing anyone or going in a different direction? Absolutely not. I think they are doing a great job, starting all the way up top with our city manager, Richard Hinojosa. He does an excellent job. He is all about service for citizens. He’s got a No. 2 that does really, really, well, our second in command, Mrs. Sonia Marroquin, she does a great job.”
Molina goes on to say: “Shawn Snider, with our fire department, does good. David White, with our police department, does excellent. You have Jesus Saenz with the planning and zoning department. These are all people who just do their job, day in, day out.”
Molina also praised the directors of utilities, public works, IT, finance, engineering, community development, HR, Edinburg Cable Network, the public library, parks and recreation, solid waste, the golf course, the boys and girls club, and the courts.
“I have got the opportunity over the last four and a half years to work hand in hand with them. And also, my 11 years as a police officer, I had the chance to work side by side with some of these individuals and I think they are doing an excellent job. I think they are the right people to take our city to the continued progress we are having and even to the next level.”
In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian on Tuesday, Molina said:
“I think there has been a lot of talk, a lot of rumors about if Richard Molina wins he is going to fire everybody. There was a scare tactic that people were using, I guest, to get people to work against me in the election. As a matter of fact, I had to clarify the positions of the mayor and the council. The mayor and the council only oversee three positions. No. 1, the city manager, No. 2, the city secretary, No. 3, the city attorney. We don’t have the power to hire and fire any of the other directors.
“Through the coffee shops and the rumor mill, they said, ‘hey, if Molina is elected, he is going to clean house.’ I wanted to relieve a lot of tension, a lot of pressure that maybe some of the directors are feeling if change does come. There is insecurity there. Let me tell you something, I worked for the city for 11 years and it didn’t matter to me who the mayor and the council were. You go to work, you do your job, you are not worried about yard signs or decals, or who likes who on Facebook.
“I just wanted to kind of educate people of the powers of the mayor and council members and who they oversee. Second that, I am on the council right now so if I had an issue with the city manager or a director, I still have the authority to put it on the agenda, not because we are going through an election, but if I needed to address something I would address it. I just wanted to clear the air, more than anything, to set the record straight.”
Gus Garcia/Santana Textiles
After the meeting, the Rio Grande Guardian asked Molina if he was happy with Gus Garcia’s level of competency. “I do not have an issue with Gus. I am just trying to get to the bottom of this. He is under pressure to answer to the majority and that has changed two or three times. What is the old saying, he is trying to save his job.”
So, if you are elected mayor, what happens to Gus Garcia, Molina was asked. “I do not have an issue with Gus. I just want the truth,” he responded.
Molina said he does not think the taxpayers of Edinburg have been told the “full story” about Edinburg’s financial exposure with Santana. He said there needs to be more transparency and accountability.
“I was approached by an EDC board member that told me they had not made payments for three months. I spoke to Gus Garcia and he confirmed they had not made payment for three months. The EDC board member wants to remain anonymous because he is afraid he will be removed from the board for coming to me. He thinks it is an iceberg waiting to happen. I did my own research. They promised 800 jobs back in 2010. A 2017 legislative report shows total jobs created is 17. Today we are told it is over 100. This has been going on for seven years.”
Molina said despite a lengthy discussion at the city council meeting, he has not been reassured.
“There have been so many conflicting stories on how they (Santana) got the additional funding. First, they said it was Chase Bank and then they said it was the IRS. I asked, who has got the first lien? We started off with a primary loan, back in 2010, for $5 million, from the state to the EDC. Lone Star Bank then came in and lent an additional $10 million and we lend it to Santana. So, we have loaned Santana $15 million.
“In 2013, Santana was in default of payment. Tonight he (Gus Garcia) said they are great, they are in good standing. Well, six weeks ago they defaulted on payment, for three months. If that is not enough to alarm a council member, who is supposed to go out and oversee taxpayer dollars? Of course, it is alarming and we have to have a presentation over and over again. Council member Torres made a good suggestion: we need to have more workshops. It just can’t be, okay, see you next year. It has to be a month-to-month report to see if they are paying on time. They were three months late and then they came back and paid.”
Molina said his tough questioning of Gus Garcia and Santana does not make him anti-business or anti-economic development.
“I am not anti-Santana Textiles. We are just getting to the bottom of the conflicting stories that we get. Everything from, they have not made their payments in three months, they defaulted in 2013. Where are they at today? That is all we want to do. We should do this every 30 days just to make sure they are right on track.”
Molina acknowledged Santana and its taxpayer-backed funding was a complicated issue.
“It is a very complicated issue. Where I got that $23 million from, so that you know, because they are saying that number is incorrect, I got the $15 million that was owed originally, and when you add the additional loan for $8.9 million, you end up with a $23.9 million. What he (Gus Garcia) was trying to say was, we don’t owe that amount, we have two lien holders.”
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of stories about the mayoral race in Edinburg. Click here for the story headlined “Edinburg mayoral candidates clash over viability of Santana Textiles” and here for the story headlined “Alamia: We need a change of leadership in Edinburg.”