Candidate files complaint against Team L1berty PAC

A candidate for justice of the peace filed a complaint against Team L1berty’s political action committee last week, accusing the PAC of failing to file campaign finance reports.

Arminda “Mindy” Garza filed a complaint against the Liberty Executive Committee — the political action committee affiliated with Team L1berty, the dominant political party in western Hidalgo County — on July 20.

Arminda GarzaGarza accused the PAC of failing to file campaign finance reports during the May 2017 Sullivan City election, the November 2017 La Joya election, the March 2018 Democratic Party primary and the May 2018 Agua Special Utility District election.

“They think they can get away with it,” said Garza, who’s running as a Republican for Hidalgo County justice of the peace Precinct 3 Place 2. “And it’s unacceptable.”

Asked about the complaint, Peñitas Chief of Staff Andy Morales released a statement.

“I resigned from the PAC and committee on May 24th. I was under the impression the PAC would appoint a new treasurer and take care of filing the semi-annual report,” Morales said. “Since no treasurer appointment form was submitted, I will get a report filed with the information I have available and will then notify the TEC of my resignation. I was not aware I had not been taken off as treasurer with the TEC until after the report was due.”

Team L1berty created the Liberty Executive Committee, a general-purpose political action committee, in July 2017, according to records filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.

The appointment of campaign treasurer form listed Morales, La Joya school board Trustee Johnn Alaniz and La Joya Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas as decision-makers for the PAC.

The Liberty Executive Committee, though, had already started accepting donations and spending money.

Team L1berty hosted a major fundraiser at Hacienda La Encantada, an event venue northwest of Mission, on March 13.

Donors included Justice of the Peace Jaime “Jerry” Muñoz, an attorney who represented the La Joya school board; Richard LeFevre, the president of McAllen-based LeFevre Engineering & Management Consulting, who later became the interim general manager of the utility district; and state Rep. Oscar Longoria, an attorney who represented the city of Peñitas.

Team L1berty didn’t waste any time spending the money.

The PAC covered a nearly $16,300 campaign debt for La Joya school board Trustee Alex Cantu, paid $5,000 to La Joya school board Trustee Oscar “Coach” Salinas for consulting and donated nearly $13,700 to Sullivan City Mayor Leo Garcia’s campaign.

Garcia disclosed the donations, but the PAC didn’t file any campaign finance reports.

When La Joya City Commissioner Mary Salinas ran for re-election in November, the PAC donated nearly $9,600.

Neither Mary Salinas nor the PAC disclosed the donations.

“You did not forget to report that,” Garza said. “It’s a big sum of money.”

The PAC also accepted donations from Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairwoman Norma Ramirez and La Joya school board Trustee J.J. Peña, who’s running as a Democrat for Hidalgo County justice of the peace Precinct 3 Place 2, during the March 2018 primary.

Peña and Ramirez reported the donations. The PAC didn’t.

Months later, the PAC spent $680 supporting candidates for the Agua Special Utility District board. They reported the donations, but the PAC didn’t file any campaign finance reports.

The PAC also filed an incomplete annual campaign finance report in April — three months late — and missed the July deadline to file a semi-annual campaign finance report.

Garza said she didn’t think the PAC missed the deadlines by mistake.

“They have something to conceal,” Garza said. “It’s obvious that there is corruption within that organization.”

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