When the Peñitas City Council met on Monday, nobody saved a seat for Mayor Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez.
Lopez — who is awaiting trial on federal theft charges — hadn’t shown up for a City Council meeting since April.
“We would like for him to show up or step down. Fulfill his duty or give it up,” said Alma Ramirez, a retired teacher who regularly attends City Council meetings. “He’s hurting the city.”
Lopez didn’t respond to requests for comment on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Voters elected Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez, 38, of Peñitas in 2015. Lopez won a second term in 2019, when he defeated former Mayor Marcos Ochoa.
“The people elected him to work for them,” Ochoa said. “And if he’s not going to the meetings, then resign and get it over with.”
Lopez attended City Council meetings in January, February, March and April. In May, though, Lopez didn’t show up.
The FBI arrested Lopez in June, when he returned from a vacation in Mexico.
Lopez is accused of paying a La Joya Independent School District administrator to approve purchases from his company, Xizaka LLC.
“Defendant gave cash to an LJISD employee intending to influence and reward said employee for approving LJISD purchases totaling approximately $70,010.00 from Xizaka, LLC, a business entity owned by Defendant,” according to the indictment against him.
Lopez pleaded not guilty. After he posted bond, Lopez skipped City Council meetings on June 20, July 1 and July 11.
“If he’s going to be the mayor, then he should be mayor,” said former Agua Special Utility District board President Mario Chapa. “And he should act like one.”
Many city charters include provisions that automatically remove officials who fail to attend meetings.
In Palmview, members of the City Council are removed from office if they miss three consecutive regular meetings. In La Joya, members of the City Council are removed from office if they miss three regular meetings during a calendar year. And in Alton, members of the City Commission are removed from office if they miss either three consecutive regular meetings or three out of any five successive regular meetings.
The Palmview, La Joya and Alton city charters all contain exceptions for excused absences.
Peñitas, however, holds members of the City Council to a different standard.
Members of the Peñitas City Council only forfeit their offices if they fail to attend “80% of the regular meetings of the council without being excused by the council,” according to the city charter.
The city charter doesn’t specify the time period used to calculate 80% of the regular meetings.
Peñitas voters approved the 80% standard in May 2012, when they adopted the city charter.
“The mayor is the leader of the community. And if the leader — or the captain of the ship — is not there, then the ship’s got a problem,” said former Mayor Servando Ramirez. “The mayor is the one that sets the agenda many times. And if he’s not there to carry out his agenda, then where’s the responsibility?”