Underwhelmed by city attorney candidates, Mission city councilman submits application

Underwhelmed by the candidates for city attorney, Mission City Councilman Gus Martinez made an unconventional decision: He applied.

“I didn’t know how it would be looked upon if I applied,” Martinez said. “But then, after a while, I realized ‘You know what, I’ll just give it a shot. If I get it, I get it. Great. If I don’t, I’m still on the council.”

GusMartinezThe application made waves in Mission, where Martinez is considered the swing vote on the City Council. If hired, he would be required to resign.

Along with political considerations, the application also prompted legal and ethical questions.

“We checked with legal to see if he was an eligible applicant to be interviewed,” said Mayor Armando “Doc” O’caña, referring to conversations with attorney Robert “Bob” Galligan of Weslaco-based law firm Jones, Galligan, Key & Lozano, which is temporarily representing the city. “And legal responded that yes, he was a legal applicant.”

Whether or not it’s ethical for a member of the City Council to apply for a city job is another matter.

“I will not comment on the ethics behind it,” O’caña said, adding that, ultimately, Martinez must answer that question.

Mission solicited applications after City Attorney Abiel Flores — who earned $160,000 per year, making him the second-highest-paid city employee — resigned in December.

Applicants included former Donna City Councilwoman Cathy Alvarado, who works for the Hidalgo County Public Defender’s Office; Guillermo “Will” Trevino, a municipal attorney from Dallas; and Daniel Jones, an attorney from Mississippi.

After interviewing the candidates, Martinez decided to apply. He submitted an application on March 8.

“It’s a very important position, city attorney. It shouldn’t be politicized,” Martinez said. “It shouldn’t be ‘Let’s have my friend become a city attorney’ or whatever. It’s something that is a very serious job.”

Martinez worked for Austin-based law firm Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, which collects delinquent property taxes, from 2007 to 2017. He’s currently an associate municipal judge for the city of Alton.

As a lifelong Mission resident and an attorney familiar with municipal issues, providing legal advice to members of the City Council would be another way to serve the public, said Martinez, who described the position as his dream job.

Asked whether or not he considered it ethical for an elected official to apply for a city job, Martinez said the answer depends on the facts.

“I guess it depends how you do it, right? Or the circumstances that surround it. It’s not illegal, of course. Is it ethical? It’s case-by-case. Because, I mean, if you’re pulling some strings to do it, then yeah, that would be unethical,” Martinez said. “But I’ve stayed out of the process. I haven’t spoken to anybody. And, really, if I don’t get it, I’ll take it — I’ll take that defeat for the city.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The article previously incorrectly stated Cathy Alvarado’s current job. Alvarado works for the Hidalgo County Public Defender’s Office; she does not work for the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office. We apologize for the error.

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