CRYSTAL CITY, Texas – Crystal City residents will have a chance to vote some of their indicted City Council members out of office May 7.
Members of the City Council voted on Tuesday night to order a recall election for Mayor Ricardo Lopez, Mayor Pro-Tem Rogelio Mata and Councilman Marco Rodriguez. All three face federal indictments. Lopez and Mata are charged with bribery and conspiracy, and Rodriguez faces unrelated charges for transporting undocumented immigrants.
The effort to recall them predates any of their arrests.
Crystal City residents have had a rough time as of late. Rodriguez was arrested in January. Lopez and Mata were rounded up in February by the FBI along with Councilman Roel Mata, former Councilman Gilbert Urrabazo and City Attorney/Manager James Jonas.
A petition to recall Lopez, Rodriguez and Rogelio Mata needed to go through district court after City Clerk Selina Ramos refused to verify any of the signatures. She contended the petitioners needed more, based on her interpretation of the Crystal City charter.
The petition was eventually certified, but the council did not order the necessary recall election until Tuesday night. A district judge had ordered Lopez, Rogelio Mata and Rodriguez to attend the meeting.
Lopez and Mata were there for the recall election vote, which passed 2-1.
The mayor left after casting the lone vote against the election.
"I completed this court order, and I'm not in contempt. And for that reason I'll no longer sit on that council," Lopez said.
Lopez had actually resigned a few weeks earlier. He is, however, still on the ballot for mayor on May 7, the same day as the recall election.
Rodriguez came in to vote on two items after Lopez left, though he left quickly after the meeting ended.
Rodriguez, Rogelio Mata and the lone council member not under indictment, Joel Barajas, voted to order an election to fill the vacancy left by Roel Mata, who resigned in February.
Rodriguez and Rogelio Mata also voted to bring in Crystal City Independent School District School Board President Ray Espinosa as the city's temporary administrator. Barajas, who had another candidate in mind, voted against it.