Palmview may hold a new mayoral election next month.
The Palmview City Council plans to meet Friday to call the special election — and fix a procedural error that left Mayor Ricardo “Rick” Villarreal in legal limbo.
Villarreal didn’t draw an opponent in November, but four people filed for two seats on the City Council.
The ballot listed Villarreal with candidates who won by default. As a result, he didn’t receive a single vote and wasn’t properly elected.
“I firmly believe that the ball was dropped somewhere between the city and the elections department,” Ramirez said, referring to the Hidalgo County Elections Department, which the city hired to manage the election. “We pay the elections department to run our elections. They’re the experts.”
After reviewing what happened, the Texas Secretary of State’s Office advised Palmview to hold a new mayoral election.
“Generally, the prior mayor would hold over. However, the mayoral candidate was given a certificate of election and was sworn in against our office’s advice,” according to an email from Christina Worrell Adkins, legal director of the secretary of state’s elections division, to Palmview City Attorney Eric Flores on Dec. 3. “Because the mayoral candidate was given a certificate of election and was sworn in, our office believes that the current mayor sworn in should serve in office until a pending special election is held to fill the vacancy.”
While technically the mayor, Villarreal remains in legal limbo. Any action he takes as mayor could be voided by a court.
“Additionally, we strongly advise you to exercise caution regarding any official acts made by the de facto mayor. We understand that you are in contact with Texas Municipal League and we would suggest continuing to seek their advice on council actions involving the mayor until this is resolved through your special election,” according to the email. “Regardless of what course of action you pursue to remedy the situation, there is a question as to the validity of your de facto mayor’s ability to currently occupy the office.”
Palmview posted the agenda Tuesday, scheduling the City Council meeting for 6 p.m. Friday.
The agenda includes: “Discussion and Possible Action relating to an ordinance calling a Special Election in the City of Palmview on January 29, 2019.”
If the City Council calls the special election for Jan. 29, the filing period for candidates would start Friday and end Dec. 20, Flores said.
Palmview couldn’t provide a copy of the special election schedule, which would list key dates and important deadlines, on Tuesday afternoon.
Flores said any eligible candidate would be able to challenge Villarreal during the special election.
“If it comes down to a special election, well, you know, then I guess that’s what’s going to happen,” Ramirez said, adding later: “My question to those individuals is: Why didn’t you run the first time?”
Palmview must follow the law, Villarreal said, adding that he plans to run again regardless of who challenges him.
“For me, it’s: Let the system take its course,” Villarreal said. “I only want what’s best for the city.”