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La Joya City Council abruptly fires city manager

The La Joya City Council abruptly fired City Manager Jacqueline Bazan on Tuesday.

Former Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas and the City Council hired Bazan in 2019. Her two-year employment contract expired in July.

“Two years have come and gone,” said Mayor Isidro Casanova, who replaced Fito Salinas in December 2019. “Opportunities were given. And I think it’s time the city moves on in a new direction.”

While the City Council didn’t explain the decision on Tuesday afternoon, Bazan said that La Joya probably terminated her for political reasons.

“This is election season in La Joya,” Bazan said, referencing the City Council election scheduled for November. “There’s different opinions and different people want to take different directions. And that’s what happens during election season everywhere, not just in La Joya.”

Former La Joya City Manager Jacqueline Bazan.

Bazan graduated from Rio Grande City High School, earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and studied law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.

After she passed the bar exam, Bazan and her brother, Kennedy, opened a law office in Rio Grande City.

They represented the city of Rio Grande City, among other clients. Bazan also became a municipal judge in Alton.

Her legal career, however, suffered a series of setbacks.

The State Bar of Texas sanctioned Bazan seven times between 2008 and 2018. Bazan also lost her ability to practice in federal court.

In August 2018, the state bar placed Bazan on “probated suspension” until Sept. 30, 2021.

During her suspension, Bazan accepted the city manager position in La Joya. She already had connections at City Hall.

Her brother had become the city attorney. And Fito Salinas had appointed her husband, Jorge, to the La Joya Housing Authority board.

Bazan signed a two-year contract in July 2019. Five months later, the political landscape changed.

Voters replaced Fito Salinas with former police Chief Isidro Casanova, who campaigned against corruption at City Hall. Two candidates who ran with Casanova — former Agua Special Utility District board President Roger Hernandez and Laura Mendiola Macias, a local real estate agent — also won seats on the City Council.

Bazan had three new bosses, but she managed to navigate the political shift.

“She’s done an awesome job,” said City Councilwoman Mary Salinas, the wife of former Mayor Fito Salinas.

The political situation changed again during 2021, when Mary Salinas and City Councilman Rey Acosta decided not to run for re-election.

Hernandez backed one slate of candidates for the open seats. Casanova and Mendiola Macias backed another.

Bazan lost her job on Tuesday afternoon, when Casanova, Mendiola Macias and Acosta met with City Attorney Roberto Jackson in executive session.

Hernandez and Mary Salinas refused to join them.

Under the Texas Open Meetings Act, the City Council is allowed to discuss personnel matters behind closed doors. That portion of the meeting, which the public isn’t allowed to attend, is called executive session.

The City Council, though, can’t vote behind closed doors. All decisions must be made in public.

Hernandez said the agenda suggested otherwise. Under “closed session,” the agenda read: “Discussion and action, if any, on the position of City Manager for the City of La Joya, Texas.”

Mendiola Macias said that she doubted Hernandez and Mary Salinas really had concerns about the agenda.

“I think they were just trying to prolong the situation,” Mendiola Macias said. “But it is what it is.”

Casanova, Mendiola Macias and Acosta spent about 25 minutes in executive session. After they returned, Mendiola Macias motioned to “approve recommendation made by legal counsel in executive session, effective immediately.”

Hernandez asked if they could explain what, exactly, Jackson had recommended.

“No,” Jackson said. “That’s why we have the executive session.”

Casanova, Mendiola Macias and Acosta backed the motion, which passed 3-2.

The city released a statement about the decision on Wednesday.

“By a majority vote of the city council, the City of La Joya has decided to part ways with its current city manager, Mrs. Jacquline Bazan,” according to the statement. “The City of La Joya wishes to express its thanks to Mrs. Bazan for the services she rendered these past three years and wishes her the best of luck in all her future endeavors.”

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