This article originally appeared in the Friday, June 1, 2018 issue of the Progress Times
Just a year after Gabriel Salinas joined the Sullivan City Commission, his political career is suddenly in jeopardy.
Salinas skipped City Commission meetings in January, February and March while studying for an engineering exam — and ran afoul of the city charter.
The charter allows the City Commission to excuse members who miss a meeting. However, any member of the City Commission who misses three consecutive, regular meetings without an excused absence forfeits his position.
The City Commission discussed the matter on May 24, but adjourned without taking any action.
“Well, unfortunately, I was not aware of that charter,” Salinas said, when asked why he missed the meetings. “I was going through several courses up in San Antonio during that time period.”
Salinas said he spent months studying for the Principles and Practice of Engineering test, a rigorous eight-hour exam administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.
Texas requires professional engineers to pass the test before handling most public projects.
“I thought I would be a better asset to the city being a P.E. engineer,” Salinas said. “With that said, it’s up to you guys.”
Salinas admitted the absences were “a little bit irresponsible” but didn’t apologize.
While studying for the exam, Salinas missed a regular meeting on Jan. 18, a special meeting on Jan. 30, a regular meeting on Feb. 13 and another regular meeting on March 20, according to minutes kept by Sullivan City Secretary Veronica Gutierrez.
Salinas took the test in April. Results take 8 to 10 weeks.
“After that exam, I did start looking at the agendas a little bit closer,” Salinas said. “Before that I didn’t have time.”
If he doesn’t pass, Salinas said he will take the test again.
“I got two obligations. You know, well, you just have to make a choice,” Salinas said. “That’s how it is.”
Salinas joined the City Commission in May 2017, when he ran with Mayor Leo Garcia on Team Sull1van. He’s the brother-in-law of former Commissioner Oscar “Coach” Salinas, who now serves on the La Joya school board.
Whether or not the City Commission will excuse Salinas for missing the meetings remains unclear.
“We all have to take responsibility,” said Commissioner Sylvia Castillo. “And there’s a reason why we decided to run for city office.”
City Attorney Armando Marroquin said the charter didn’t specify when or how, exactly, the City Commission may excuse an absence.
“If the council didn’t excuse, well then, technically, the seat would be forfeited,” Marroquin said. “If the council does excuse, well then, just continue on.”
After reviewing state law, Marroquin recommended the City Commission make the decision by majority vote.
Ironically, though, the City Commission delayed the vote because Commissioner Adriana Rodriguez didn’t attend the meeting.
“I really believe — I don’t know if it’s just me — that all councilmembers should be here for this decision because it’s very important,” said Commissioner Daniel Flores. “And I really believe that Commissioner Rodriguez should be here, also, so she can take a vote on this.”