Billing manager resigns from Agua SUD amid internal investigation

Faced with an internal investigation, a well-respected manager abruptly resigned from the Agua Special Utility District last month — and accepted a job with the city of Palmview.

The utility district suspended Billing Manager Rodolfo Flores III on Sept. 6 amid an “investigation due to continued unsatisfactory supervision performance in the Billing Department,” according to personnel records.

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Flores resigned on Sept. 10 and accepted a job with Palmview a few weeks later.

“As far as I was concerned, he was a very capable individual,” said former utility board President Mario Chapa. “He must have felt undue pressure in the environment that he was in today to resign before he was fired.”

Neither the utility district nor Flores would comment on what happened.

Flores graduated from Texas A&M University in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in finance, according to personnel records. After a stint at Texas Rural Legal Aid, he accepted a job with the La Joya Water Supply Corp. in June 2003.

When state lawmakers shut down the La Joya Water Supply Corp. and created the Agua Special Utility District, attempting to fix a myriad of problems, Flores weathered the transition. He became the billing department supervisor, managing clerks and meter readers.

“He’s a good guy,” said former Executive Director Julio Cerda.

Flores deftly handled customer complaints, said Cerda, who described him as smart and responsible.

“I liked the way the guy went about dealing with the public,” Cerda said. “He knew his stuff.”

Flores became the assistant executive director in August 2016, when the utility district hired Armin Garza — a member of the La Joya school board — as billing manager.

Along with the promotion, Flores received a 3 percent raise, according to personnel records.

Cerda, though, resigned in September 2016. The new executive director, Oscar Cancino, allowed Flores to keep the title but rescinded the 3 percent raise.

Garza, the new billing supervisor, lasted less than a year.
In May 2017, the Texas Legislature passed a bill designed to address potential conflicts of interest at the utility district. Part of the bill prevented elected officials from hiring each other.

The utility district approved a $268,000 settlement agreement with Garza in July 2017. He found a new job with the city of Peñitas.

Flores went back to the billing department.

In September, however, utility district General Manager Jose E. “Eddie” Saenz apparently became concerned about how Flores managed the department.

He suspended Flores with pay on Sept. 6.

“This action is based on a current investigation due to continued unsatisfactory supervision performance in the Billing Department,” Saenz wrote in a memo. “I will be meeting with Mr. Flores on Monday, September 10, 2018, to determine the future of Mr. Flores with Agua SUD.”

Flores resigned on Sept. 10 before the meeting with Saenz.

“I have decided to pursue another opportunity in a different career field,” Flores wrote in his resignation letter. “I have been very fortunate to have been given many opportunities to learn and grow at Agua Special Utility District.”

Asked why he resigned, Flores declined to comment further. Attorney Frank Garza, who represents the utility district, said management doesn’t comment on personnel matters.

Flores quickly found a new job with the city of Palmview, where he supervises public works, planning and code enforcement. He started on Oct. 1.

The position, however, will remain temporary until approved by the Palmview City Council.

Flores is a straight-up guy, said City Councilman Javier Ramirez, who added that an internal investigation, especially by the utility district, didn’t bother him.

“That doesn’t mean much,” Ramirez said. “At least not to me, it doesn’t.”

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