By Juan Montoya
She has held a position with Cameron County since the days of her predecessor District Clerk Josephine Dunkelberg, a run of 43 years.
Then, in the face of an imploding judiciary racketeering and bribery scandal that centered around the assignment of lucrative personal injury cases in convicted 404th District Judge Abel Limas through attorney Jim Solis and Marc Rosenthal (both also convicted), De la Garza announced she was retiring effective this year.
In her wake, the county sheriff and district attorney's office were investigating the theft of child support payments by one her clerks and people were questioning the short shrift given the embezzlement case of her son Joey de la Garza from a hospice in Olmito.
Both ended up paying restitution and getting probation.
In the case of the child-support clerk, she was the daughter of a Cameron County District Attorney employee and the adopted daughter of an Asst. D.A.
In her son's case, however, the arraignment and sentencing took place on one afternoon in Limas' courtroom and county observers wondered over the quick disposition of a case that entailed the theft of more than $85,000 (some say more) from the sick and dying.
Well, now that her last day in office is coming on December 31, her relatives and supporters are hosting an appreciation dinner and ceremony to send her off to retirement. The celebration is to be held at Brownsville Events Center October 16. But even after a asking the public's support in seven elections and a lifetime drawing a public paycheck, the event will be open by invitation only.
"We're sorry to tell you that we only have a limited number of seats and that your name isn't on the list of invited guests," a woman in charge of the RSVPs told the writers of this blog. "It's being put together by her family and friends and you're not on it."
OK. We see how it works now. When Aurorita wanted a $2,000 raise from taxpayers to get her on par with Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector Tony Yzaguirre on August 2013, she didn't mind people knowing about it.
That bump gave her a base salary of $71,745 plus $5,400 for auto allowance plus the additional $2,000, totaling $79,143.
The justification for the salaries, according to Pct. 4 Commissioner Dan Sanchez – who pushed for it – was that De la Garza had been with the county longer than Yzaguirre who, according to figures from the auditor's office commands $93,210 in total compensation.
Likewise, when someone, no one knows who, ordered Gregory James Phelps Photography to bill the county $1,725 for a De la Garza portrait that now graces the San Benito County Annex.
The commissioners were asked to authorize payment Gregory James Phelps Photography even though county policy requires that three quotes must be received for any request for services over $500 and a purchase order be made.
It this case, there were no quotes and no purchase order.
But, oh well, perhaps the fact that she is gone after 43 years is something to celebrate.
God knows that she has left enough relatives, in-laws, outlaws and patronage beneficiaries behind her to last another generation or two. Have a nice party, Aurorita.
Now we won't have to hear you wailing through nthe hallways asking for pay raises and wringing your hands saying: "Oh, the girls really need it. They work so haaard!"
The lawsuit named the city of Brownsville, former police chief Carlos Garcia, jailer Jesus Arias, Sgt. David Infante, Lt. Henry Etheridge, and former Cmdr. Robert Avita as defendants. The assault happened on Nov. 27, 2005.
According to that lawsuit, three jailers, went into the cell to remove him, and when he attempted to ask a question to the jailers, Arias lunged at him from behind, seized him by the neck and placed him in an illegal choke hold. The local newspaper reported that the jailer claimed that the prisoner had assaulted him while in jail custody and that reports filed by the BPD only obtained accounts from the jailers and not from Alvarez.