At mayor’s request, judge blocks Palmview from calling new election

This article was updated Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at 12:00 p.m.

At the request of Mayor Rick Villarreal, a judge signed a temporary restraining order against the city of Palmview on Friday — blocking the City Council from calling a new mayoral election.

Villarreal filed the lawsuit against Palmview on Dec. 14, claiming he would suffer “irreparable damage” if the City Council called a new mayoral election.

Rick Villarreal“This is an election problem,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Joel Garcia, who stressed that Palmview will keep moving forward. “Not a city problem.”

With the lawsuit pending, Villarreal referred a request for comment to his attorney, Francisco J. Rodriguez of McAllen. Rodriguez didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit, which pits Villarreal against the city, is the latest development in a long-running drama over how Palmview conducted the November 2018 mayoral election.

Ricardo “Rick” Villarreal, an assistant superintendent at the La Joya Independent School District who served two terms on the City Council, ran unopposed for mayor.

Four candidates, though, filed for two seats on the City Council. Palmview held the election Nov. 6.

The ballot listed Villarreal on a page with candidates declared elected by default. As a result, he didn’t receive a single vote and wasn’t properly elected, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office.

Christina Worrell Adkins, the legal director of the secretary of state’s elections division, sent Palmview City Attorney Eric Flores an email about the situation on Dec. 3.

“Under Section 2.051 of the Texas Election Code the mayoral candidate race for the City of Palmview was not properly canceled because there were two opposed at-large races on the ballot and the candidate did not receive the vote/s required in order to be elected,” Worrell Adkins wrote.

She advised the city to hold a new mayoral election within 120 days. Palmview posted a City Council meeting for 6 p.m. on Dec. 14 to call the new election.

Villarreal filed the lawsuit just hours before the meeting, attempting to block the City Council from taking action.

“Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment declaring Plaintiff as mayor of the City of Palmview, and a temporary restraining order preventing any city council official, officer or employee of the City of Palmview from taking any steps or actions to initiate the calling, scheduling or holding a special election for the position of Mayor of Palmview since I have already been certified and sworn in as the Mayor,” according to the lawsuit.

Businessman Rogelio “Roy” Diaz, 39, of Palmview, who wants to run against Villarreal, said the city should hold a special election.

“I think the citizens of Palmview should have the right to vote and elect their next mayor,” Diaz said. “They can’t be blamed for something they didn’t do wrong.”
Faced with the temporary restraining order, the City Council discussed the matter in executive session but didn’t take any action.

Aside from the mayoral election morass, the lawsuit also caused consternation in Palmview because of how it described the results.

“After officials counted the votes, the City certified Plaintiff as mayor of the City, Joselito ‘Hoss’ Hernandez as councilmember, place 2, and Arturo ‘Art’ Alaniz as councilmember, place 4,” according to the lawsuit.

However, Hernandez and Alaniz lost the election. They were defeated by Jose Luis Perez and Anthony Uresti, who joined the City Council in November.

“It’s a huge mistake by the lawyers,” Uresti said. “And I hope it doesn’t affect the litigation.”

State District Judge Romeo Flores, who signed the temporary restraining order, scheduled a hearing for Jan. 8.

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