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The La Joya City Commission may hold a special meeting Saturday morning — just three days before Election Day — to approve mystery agreements with more than a dozen city employees.
La Joya posted the meeting agenda Tuesday at City Hall. The agenda includes discussion and possible action on agreements with more than a dozen city employees, ranging from the city manager to a police department clerk.
“I don’t want to discuss it at this time,” Mayor Salinas said, adding that he wanted to wait until after the meeting Saturday morning.
Mayor Salinas also declined to comment on whether or not the agreements on the agenda were actually employment contracts.
“We’re going to decide in executive session,” Mayor Salinas said. “And when we come out we’ll let you know.”
The agenda lists agreements between the city of La Joya and the “city administrator,” which is apparently a reference to City Manager Jacqueline Bazan; her brother, City Attorney Kennedy Salinas; the public works director, the water plant director, the public utilities director, the city “code enforcer,” the finance clerk, the city clerk, the city marketing clerk, the court coordinator and clerk, a police department dispatch clerk, the library director and the senior center director.
It remained unclear Wednesday why the City Commission agenda didn’t list other department-level administrators, including City Secretary Julianita Sabala and Fire Chief Frankie Joe Salinas.
The City Commission approved a mystery agreement with police Chief Adolfo Arriaga on Oct. 8. Mayor Salinas is campaigning with Adolfo Arriaga’s wife, Dalia Arriaga, who is running for City Commission Place 4.
The Progress Times submitted a public information request for a copy of the agreement on Oct. 8, but La Joya failed to either release the agreement or request a decision from the Texas Attorney General’s Office as required by law.
Employment contracts between city governments and city managers aren’t unusual.
The City Commission approved a two-year employment contract with Bazan in July. The contract set her pay and benefits, described her duties, and dictated under what conditions the City Commission could terminate her.
Employment contracts for lower-level employees, such as police department clerks, are extremely unusual.
“Our current mayor knows his days at city hall are numbered, and this ‘special meeting’ is a clear example of poor decisions he’s made as a mayor,” Isidro Casanova, who is running against Mayor Salinas, said in a statement. “At the onset of our campaign, we have stressed that we have no intentions to let go any city employees if they are doing their job correctly and effectively. Never in the city of La Joya has there been employee ‘agreements’ aka contracts for employees, especially not for clerical positions. We actually don’t know of another entity that has contracts for clerical positions. It’s time for a leadership change at city hall, and we look forward to working hand in hand with our city personnel to make that change happen for the citizens of La Joya.”
The possibility that La Joya could approve the agreements just three days before Election Day prompted widespread consternation Wednesday.
“That’s not right, what they’re trying to do,” said Jaime Gaitan, who is running against Mayor Salinas.
Gaitan said the agenda created the impression that Mayor Salinas was trying to protect his supporters at City Hall.
“To do it a couple of days before the election, that’s crazy,” Gaitan said. “That’s mind-boggling to me.”
The City Commission meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at City Hall.