On May 5, when voters went to the polls in Mission, a policewoman contacted the Anonymous RGV page on Facebook.
“Hi … I wanna be kept anonymous, but I’ve got some very important information that someone SHOULD look into … from Mission,” wrote police Officer Veronica Cedillo.
“Sure,” the Facebook page replied. “You will always remain anonymous.”
Cedillo started typing.
“Well, I just don’t wanna get in trouble, but just so ya’ll know … the current mayor, Beto Salinas was wasted/drunk and crashed inside the city limits … single vehicle accident at about 3am this morning,” Cedillo wrote. “However, it is unknown if he called the Chief of Police directly & had the Sgt. take care of it. So, he was allowed to call someone to go pick him up & was not charged/arrested for DWI. He was already picked up, by the time the wrecker arrived at the scene. The officer only did an accident report … which is totally unfair/wrong!!”
Anonymous RGV didn’t reply.
Someone, though, sent her message to Mission police Chief Robert Dominguez, who fired Cedillo last month for unbecoming conduct and sharing police department information without permission.
“Ms. Cedillo’s employment was terminated a mere hours before the former mayor’s term expired and was done only out of revenge,” said her attorney, David Willis, in a statement. “Ms. Cedillo expressed a significant matter of public concern and spoke only as a private citizen. She in no way attempted to speak on behalf of the Mission Police Department, used no departmental equipment, or accessed any departmental documents or databases to express her opinion. Ms. Cedillo accepts that her private Facebook Messenger post violated some of the minor policies of the Mission Police Department. However, the termination of her employment is absolutely unjust and unreasonable. We are very confident that an independent hearing examiner will overturn the Chief’s decision to terminate her employment and will reinstate her with back pay and benefits.”
With the appeal pending, Dominguez declined to comment.
Rumors about Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas started on the morning of May 5, just hours before the polls opened.
At 3:32 a.m., a silver Ford F-150 struck a utility pole near the intersection of North Glasscock Road and East Dorado Drive, according to the crash report.
When police Officer Joshua Jimenez responded, he found Mayor Salinas behind the wheel.
Sgt. Graciela Guerrero arrived minutes later. Her dashboard camera recorded Mayor Salinas talking while he waited for the tow truck.
Mayor Salinas sounded calm. Neither Jimenez nor Guerrero asked Mayor Salinas to take a field sobriety test.
After the mayor left, however, Jimenez noticed a beer can sitting near a pile of garbage bags.
“That beer’s pretty cold,” Jimenez said, according to dashboard camera video released by the Mission Police Department.
Guerrero apparently didn’t hear him. So Jimenez repeated himself.
“That beer’s pretty cold that’s there,” Jimenez said. “Fresh.”
The crash report released by the Mission Police Department doesn’t mention the beer can.
Mayor Salinas hadn’t been drinking, said his son, Rick Salinas, a prominent attorney.
“And most people, especially in Mission, will tell you that he doesn’t drink,” Rick Salinas said.
Nevertheless, rumors about the crash rocketed through the Mission Police Department.
Officers started talking about the crash on a WhatsApp group chat for members of the Texas Municipal Police Association, according to messages reviewed during the internal investigation.
The Mission Police Department summarized the conversation and the messages in Cedillo’s termination paperwork, which the city released under the Texas Public Information Act.
“Mayor 1050 this morning at about 320. Single vehicle accident into a pole or tree and it was kept on the down low,” wrote Officer Raul Tanguma, using the police radio code for a crash.
“55?” responded Officer Jorge Cabrera, using the police radio code for an intoxicated driver.
Tanguma responded: “Probably but nothing was done.
Guerrero kept on the DL, 3000 N. Glasscock.”
Officer Yvette Martinez forwarded a message from the group chat to Cedillo, who worked the afternoon shift that day.
Cedillo also talked with another policeman who believed Mayor Salinas had been intoxicated.
Concerned about a cover-up, Cedillo sent the information to the Anonymous RGV Facebook page at 3:51 p.m., according to her termination paperwork. Someone with access to the Facebook page apparently shared the messages, which were forwarded to the police chief.
“In the message that you sent, the content brought the Mission Police Department into disrepute and discredited our responding officers that actually investigated the traffic accident,” according to her termination
Who shared Cedillo’s messages with the police chief remains a mystery.
Raul Cruz of Mission — a Republican political operative who publicly supported Mayor Salinas’ re-election campaign — said he runs the Anonymous RGV Facebook page with two other administrators, who he wouldn’t identify.
The Progress Times couldn’t independently verify that Cruz runs the Facebook page.
Cruz said he couldn’t find any record of Cedillo contacting Anonymous RGV on Facebook and denied sharing any messages from the page.
Anonymous RGV didn’t post about the rumor.
Faced with two challengers, Mayor Salinas fell just a few votes short on May 5. He lost the runoff election to City Councilman Armando “Doc” O’caña.
The city fired Cedillo on June 18 — hours before O’caña took office.