A judge signed a temporary restraining order against the city of La Joya on Friday, blocking the City Commission from holding a controversial meeting on Saturday.
Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas and the City Commission planned to hold a special meeting Saturday morning — three days before Election Day — to approve agreements with more than a dozen employees.
Concerned the agreements were actually employment contracts, mayoral candidate Isidro Casanova filed a lawsuit against the city and requested a temporary restraining order.
“The actions proposed by the current City Council for the City of La Joya would constrain any and all future administrations from putting forth a fiscally responsible budget for the City of La Joya. Specifically, awarding employment contracts to 13 current city employees,” Casanova wrote in an affidavit filed Friday, which referenced the meeting agenda. “Further, the proposed action contemplated by the present council would act as a form of voter disenfranchisement in that the will of the voters would be usurped by the current council’s actions.”
Casanova couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday night.
Hidalgo County Court-at-Law Judge Albert Garcia signed the temporary restraining order, which blocked the City Commission from meeting.
Regardless of whether or not Casanova wins the case, the temporary restraining order will prevent the City Commission from approving employment contracts before Election Day.
Mayor Salinas called the temporary restraining order “ridiculous” and said he welcomed the opportunity to defend the agreements in court.
“All I can tell you is that I just do not understand why Isidro Casanova, being a citizen of La Joya, is trying to discriminate (against) people here trying to get a contract, trying to stabilize their jobs and their families,” Mayor Salinas said.
The meeting agenda included discussion and possible action on agreements with the “City Administrator,” 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 clerk, the library director and the senior center director.
Local governments routinely approve employment contracts with superintendents, city managers and high-ranking administrators. It’s extremely unusual, however, for local governments to approve contracts with clerks and other low-level employees.
The meeting agenda instantly became an issue during the mayoral campaign. Mayoral candidate Jaime Gaitan also considered filing a lawsuit.
Mayor Salinas, though, said he didn’t see any problem with the city providing job security for employees.
“What’s wrong with the directors getting contracts?” Mayor Salinas said.
Election Day is Nov. 5. The lawsuit is scheduled for an initial hearing on Nov. 14.