This article was originally published in the Progress Times issue dated Friday, April 12, 2019.
The City Commission hired Jose Luis “Puma” Rodriguez, 39, of La Joya on Tuesday night. Rodriguez — who police arrested on theft, drunken driving, evading arrest or detention, and drug charges during the past two decades — will work at the La Joya Youth Center as a part-time coach.
“We don’t have any policy that says we can’t hire anybody that’s been in jail,” said Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas. “I don’t know if you have been in jail. I don’t know about Puma.”
“That’s up to the city manager,” Mayor Salinas said. “We take his recommendation.”
La Joya didn’t advertise the position.
“We didn’t have to. That’s Urban County monies,” Mayor Salinas said, apparently referring to funding provided by the Hidalgo County Urban County Program. “And it’s stipends.”
Rodriguez couldn’t be reached for comment.
City Attorney Kennedy Salinas said he didn’t know Rodriguez and couldn’t immediately answer questions about the issue.
Mayor Salinas, though, apparently knows Rodriguez.
When the La Joya Housing Authority board needed a new tenant commissioner last year, Mayor Salinas appointed Rodriguez.
“We do have a vacancy at the housing authority and I would like to recommend Jose Luis Rodriguez,” Mayor Salinas said on Oct. 9, 2018, when the City Commission considered the matter. “Alias ‘El Puma.’”
Rodriguez, however, never attended a housing authority board meeting.
Mayor Salinas replaced Rodriguez with Jose Armando Salinas, a housing authority tenant who served five years in federal prison for drug trafficking.
Rodriguez also had a criminal record.
On Aug. 8, 2002, a La Joya policeman attempted to arrest Rodriguez.
“Jose Luis Rodriguez was a suspect on a theft and a criminal mischief case reported to us by Mr. Billy Leo, a store owner in La Joya,” according to a report filed with the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office. “Officer Hernandez ordered Jose Luis to stop but Jose Luis refused to stop and ran away from Officer Hernandez through several houses and got away.”
Officers arrested Rodriguez the following day on charges of evading arrest or detention, a Class B misdemeanor, and theft, a Class C misdemeanor.
Rodriguez pleaded guilty to evading arrest and detention, according to Hidalgo County court records. What happened to the theft charge remains unclear.
The Progress Times requested police records documenting the arrest last year, when Mayor Salinas appointed Rodriguez to the housing authority board. La Joya never provided the records.
Officers arrested Rodriguez again on Oct. 25, 2009, when a Mission Police Department corporal stopped him for driving erratically on Conway Avenue.
Rodriguez had slurred speech and smelled like beer, according to police department records. The police corporal also found two open, 24-ounce cans of beer on the passenger seat.
“The suspect refused to perform any test and became belligerent,” according to police department records.
He pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, a Class B misdemeanor.
Rodriguez also had problems in Cameron County, where he pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, a state jail felony, in May 2017.
A judge placed Rodriguez on deferred adjudication. The court discharged him from community supervision in August.