Sunday, October 19, 2014


By Juan Montoya
If you glanced at the Sunday newspaper today, you probably came upon the large ad paid by the Cameron County Democratic Party Executive Committee.
Now, usually, the ads crow up the Democratic candidates in the upcoming elections. That's wat made the ad taking Carlos Cascos to task for "never calling for an investigation of the scandalous corruption in our county."
The ad says that "our former sheriff, DA, and a District Judge have all been found guilty."
Now, we don't know what Cascos could possibly had done to stop Conrado Cantu from taking money from drug dealers, what he could have done to stop Armando Villalobos from racketeering, or what he could have done to stop Abel Limas from taking bribes.
There was also something about one of the employees of his accounting firm embezzling money from the firm that was settled wuietly. And of course, there was an item about Cris Valadez "accused" of tampering with electric meters while a board member of the Brownsville PUB.
We knew that Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilbert Hinojosa – who Cascos beat for county judge before – has a direct hand in the running of the Cameron Party Democratic Party as does his wife Cindy. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that it was Gilbert behind the ad. You see, it looks realy bad for Gilbert for his home county to elect a Republican and now it's obvious that the resources of the state party are going to be used to try to prevent that.
BUt let's take a look at what Hinojosa balmes Cascos for.
Wasn't Conrado one of Gilbert's best friends and Gilbert one of his staunchest supporters before The Fall?
And wasn;t Hinojosa and his buddy Juan Magallanes some of the local lawyers who had an open door to Villalobos when he was DA?
Yet, the ad tries to lay the blame the judicial corruption of Limas at Cascos' doorstep. Remember the testimony by Limas himself on who talked him into running for district judge? Let us refresh your memory:
In an article written by Emma Perez-Treviño in 2011, she wrote that, aside from contributions, "A good portion came from a $25,000 loan that Limas secured from the International Bank of Commerce. Four Brownsville attorneys and a relative put their names on the line for Limas, each guaranteeing $5,000 of the loan. These were not reported as campaign contributions, and individually they exceeded state limits on contributions to judicial candidates.
The attorneys were Ernesto Gamez Jr., who was Limas’ campaign spokesman; Leonel Alejandro, now (then) judge of the 357th Judicial District; and former Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa’s partners at the time, Juan Magallanes and Eddie Treviño, now (then) former Brownsville mayor, with the then-law firm of Magallanes, Hinojosa and Treviño."
Then, in 2005, after Limas had been in office for one four-year term and was embarking on a second one, the partners heard he was thinking of resigning his bench.
During the Ray Marchan trial, Limas told prosecutors that he had told them he wasn't going torun and they talked him out of it.
LIMAS : "I was going to resign in 2005. I had a letter for Gov. Rick Perry in 2005.
ASST. U.S. Atty. "And they told you don't resign. Please don't resign."
LIMAS: "Yeah, they told me not to resign. They didn't tell me 'Don't resign. We'll do this for you.' No. They encouraged me not to resign. And I said 'I'm going to resign.'"


By Juan Montoya
It was a still early Friday evening and Panfilo thought about getting together with la raza at El Mante Bar.
El Mante was their usual watering hole. Not only did a lot of babes go dance and hang out there, but there was usually live music by a local conjunto and you could play a competitive game of pool with a wicked gang of hustlers who preyed on the unwary.
Besides, Moi, the owner, still sold cold beer at $1.50, one of the few remaining places where you could get one that cheap.
But Panfilo had a problem. His dress shoes had seen their better days and the front part of the sole had completely come off the from the leather upper of the right-foot shoe.
He thought about it and decided to stop at the Texas Thrift Store in front of the Walmart at Boca Chica to see if he could find a pair. As he walked down Old Prt Isabel Road, he became aware of the slapping sound made by the loose sole and cut across the Walmart parking lot to avoid pedestrians coming from the opposite direction on the sidewalk.
He walked into the thrift store and looked over the selection. There wasn't much to see. He was a size 8 1/2 and it appeared that most of the used shoes were from up north where people apparently seemed to wear bigger sizes.
Finally, he settled on a pair that were about a size bigger, but he also bought a pair of thick black socks to disguise the fact that they fit a little loose. He tried the pair and they felt OK, so he left them on, paid for them at the counter, and tossed his old pair in teh dumpster behind the store.
Fourteenth Street was a few blocks from the thrift store and he ambled over, trying to get used to his new shoes. The not only felt good, Panfilo thought, they also looked good, better than the old pair.
When he got to El Mante, all his buddies were there. It was still too early for the night crowd and they made a space for him around the wooden cable spool Moi used as bar tables.
"Hey, bro, traes calcos nuevos ? Quien pompo?" asked Raul, one of his friends, He was one of the few who still used the chuco jargon for shoes.
"Simon, carnal," Panfilo replied signalling one of the bar waitresses for a cold Natural. That was one of the good things about Moi's place. A Natural Light cost only $1.
The girl came over and brought his beer.
He sat there drinking and joking with his camaradas and was about to signal for another brew when the waitress came over and brought him one. He looked at her inquiringly and was about to pull out his dollar when she told him someone had bought him the beer.
"Fue aquella chava," she said pointing at a good looking, well-dressed woman sitting at a table with some friends across the pool table next to the wall.
"A ya pegaste, ese," said Arnulfo with a slight trace of envy in his voice. "Ta bien guena."
Panfilo acknowledged the beer and nodded in her direction wondering what he had done that had attracted her attention. A few minutes later, the waitress brought another beer.
"De la misma chava," she said. "Quiere contigo. No se porque, per quiere."
The rest of the party at the table teased him and he got up and walked over to the table to thank her personally.
"Gracias, mi amor," he said in his best galan voice as he put his hand on the back of her chair. "Como te llamas?"
"Maria," she answered. "Bailas?"
He said yes and they danced and he returned to his table.
The waitress came by again and told him that Maria wanted a word with him.
By now, he had become the item of conversation at the table. He ambled over and she asked him if he wanted to go somewhere. "Ya sabes pa que," she said coyly.
Panfilo was thrown for a loop. To be honest, although all the friends at the table boasted of their conquests with the babes and imagined sexual exploits, it was a rarity for a woman to come on to them. When and if it happened, it was usually toward the wee hours when the effects of the alcohol made them throw their inhibitions to the wind.
Panfilo and Maria left Moi's and she told him to drive her car to a motel on Boca Chica.
Less than half an hour later Panfilo came back by himself. Maria had dropped him off in front of Moi's and took off in her new car.
"Ya?" Raul asked. "Que paso?"
"We went to the motel in her car and she paid," Panfilo said leaning back luxuriously. "Then we made love and came back."
"She paid?" Raul asked incredulously.
"Yeah," replied Panfilo. "And she even gave me $50."
"She gave you $50!" Arnulfo almost yelled. "Why?"
"I don't know," Panfilo said signalling for another Natural Light. "She told me to get a new pair of shoes my size so that I won't go around fooling people."

Saturday, October 18, 2014


with apologies to Edwin Arlington Robinson

Old Aurorita De la Garza, partying one night
At the Events Center, in old Browntown
And there with some by-invitation-only friends,
Who loved the district clerk of 30 years
After all that time, paused warily.
The center was without an enemy near;
And Ricardo Longoria, MCing for her said aloud,
For no man else in Browntown to hear:

"Well, Aurorita, we have the harvest moon
Again, and we may not have many more;
The pajaro is on the wing, the poet says,
And you and I have said it here before.
Drink to the boid." He raised up to the light
The tarro that he had gone so far to fill,
And answered huskily: "Well, Aurorita,
Since you propose it, I believe I will."

And then, with Bishop Dan Flores and the Alcalde Martinez there
Blessed as she was with Red Masses, a score,
She stood and basked in the plaudits given her
Like Judge Dancy's ghost blowing a silent horn.
Below Ricardo on the dais, yet not far, was Treviño
Da Former Mayor there, where friends had honored him,
A phantom salutation of the dead
Rang thinly till the bishop's eyes were dim.

Then, Aurorita, as a mother lays her sleeping child
Down tenderly, fearing it may awake,
Set the jug down slowly at her feet
With trembling care, knowing that most things break;
And only when assured that on the table firm
It stood, as the uncertain lives of men
Assuredly did not, she paced away,
And with his her hand extended paused again:

"Well, Mr.Magallaners, we have not met like this
In a long time; and many indictments they have come
But none to us, I fear, since last it was
We had a drop together. Welcome home!"
Convivially returning to John Wood,
Again she raised the jug up to the light;
And with an acquiescent quaver said:
"Well, Ralph Cowen, if you insist, I might.

"Only a very little, Ralph
For auld lang syne. No more, sir; that will do."
So, for the time, apparently it did,
And Aurorita evidently thought so too;
For soon amid the silver loneliness
Of night the Consul Quilantan, uninvited, raised up his voice and sang,
Secure, with only two guests listening,
Until the whole harmonious landscape rang—

"For Aurorita, ahorita," the weary throat gave out,
The last word wavered; and the song being done,
She raised again the jug regretfully
And shook her head, and was again alone.
After 30 long years, there was not much that was ahead of her
And there was nothing in the county below—
Where strangers would have shut the many doors
That many friends had opened for her long ago.

Goodbye Auro, you've had a good run
But like all ill-gotten gains
You have surrounded yourselves with sycophants
and smooth-talking, suave pedants
Who told you things you want to hear
And now it's gone, you're free and clear
Of evil law enforcement guys who want to know
And who you've told – where all the skeletons are –
Slither away, it's best we think...while you're still free


By Juan Montoya
On the eve of the start of early voting Monday, the former Cameron County Clerk Chief Deputy Letty Perez has filed a Whistleblower Act lawsuit against Cameron County naming her former boss – and current Democratic candidate for county Judge Joe Rivera – and alleging, among other things, that he retaliated against her for not supporting one of his political candidates and awarding "improper and illegal contracts."
Rivera claims that the suit is politically motivated and that although he hasn't been served with it, the fact that Perez never showed up for a grievance hearing and did not exhaust the remedies available to her with the county might cause the lawsuit to be thrown out.
"She filed a grievance and never showed up when we had it," he said. "Then she files the lawsuit three days before the start of early voting which makes it doubly suspicions that it is politically motivated."
Perez alleges that Rivera subjected her to "verbal harassment and front of county employees and others running for political office" after she said she reported these alleged "violations to investigators at the FBI, an appropriate law enforcement authority..."
In the lawsuit styled 2104-DCL-07082, Leticia Perez v. Cameron County Clerk's Office filed Friday in the 103rd District Court, Perez, who had been Rivera's right-hand-employee for the past 30 years, she claims that she worked without incident "until she was asked to support a particular candidate for County Clerk, Sylvia Garza Perez" by Rivera and that he started a "campaign of retaliation" against her after she told him that "she would not be supporting her Garza-Perez, Rivera's choice as his successor" that resulted in her wrongful termination.
She claims in her lawsuit that Rivera's retaliation "was also due to (her) obtaining knowledge of (him) utilizing his post as County Clerk to award illegal contracts and attempting to contact the proper law enforcement authorities concerning as such."
The filing of the lawsuit on the Friday preceding the start of early voting Monday for the general election immediately brought howls of protest by Rivera's supporters who charged that the lawsuit was politically motivated to influence the county judge's race.
Rivera was a surprise candidate for county judge and had told his supporters that he was going to run for reelection to the position that he had held for 36 years. Even more surprising was Garza-Perez's announcement that she would be running for county clerk after she had first announced that she would run for county judge herself.
It was assumed around county circles that Letty Perez would be Rivera's successor prior to the announcement that Garza-Perez had switched positions.
Justice of the Peace Benny Ochoa said he had wanted to run for County Clerk and asked Rivera if he was running again. When Rivera told him he was, Ochoa decided against throwing his hat in the ring. However, Ochoa said that just because Rivera did the opposite, that was no reason for Letty Perez to have filed the lawsuit and the allegations contained therein.
"Just because Joe did that that doesn't mean I am going to go against him like that," Ochoa said.
Garza-Perez easily beat back her opponents in the 2014 Democratic primary. She then beat Arnold Flores in the primary runoff 5,477 to 4,963. She does not face a Republican challenger in the general election.
The charges made by Perez – if proven – could potentially result in indictments in federal court. Although Perez does not specify which contracts Rivera allegedly made which were "illegal and improper," the faact that they have been filed in the court of public opinion might have the potential to sway some voters now on the fence.
Observers say that her filing the lawsuit without going through the grievance process could potentially derail her claims, but also disrupt any investigation that the FBI might be undertaking based on her allegations to them.
The Whistleblower Act (554.006) specifically states that an employee must "initiate action under the grievance or appeal procedures of the employing state or local governmental entity relating to suspension or termination of employment or adverse personnel action before suing under this chapter."
Additionally, the employee must "invoke the applicable grievance or appeal procedures not later than the 90th day after the date on which the alleged violation of this chapter."
It is unknown whether Perez filed a grievance with the county before she initiated the lawsuit under the Act. If she didn't, some legal observers say that her lawsuit may be thrown out.
However, the political fallout of a lawsuit by a trusted 30-year employee on the eve of the early voting in the county clerk elections does not bode well for Rivera.
Close associates of County Judge Cascos deny that they had anything to do with the timing of Perez's lawsuit, and that it had been brewing for months before the filing on Friday.
Her attorneys – Javier Peña, Uri Heller and Chad Fulda of Heller and Fulda – are based in Edinburg, Texas.
She is suing for injunctive relief, actual and compensatory damages , court costs, attorneys fees, reinstatement with fringe benefits and seniority rights lost because of her termination and lost wages.
The Act also calls for the Texas Attorney General to provide to the state auditor's office a brief memorandum describing the facts and disposition of the lawsuit.
It also calls for the auditor to investigate the state governmental entity (Cameron County) to determine any changes necessary to correct the problems which gave rise to the whistleblower suit.


By Daily Iowan Staff
Hassanali EspahbodiA University of Texas-Brownsville professor who sought treatment at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is suing two doctors and the state of Iowa for negligence, according to court documents.
Hassanali Espahbodi, 61, was admitted to UIHC in June 2011 for surgery to repair a hernia. Clinical Professor Kent Choi and Kevin Bridge performed the surgery. 
Espahbodi alleges Choi and Bridge mistakenly cut one of his arteries and failed to properly detect and control bleeding. He also contends that the surgeons damaged his nerves and used an inappropriate mesh during the surgery.
He claims the surgeons and the state are responsible for “physical and mental pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.” His wife, Pouran Tolouian Hassanali, 61, is also suing, claiming she “[has] and will be deprived of the services, companionship, and society” of her husband due to the alleged negligence.
The couple is seeking trial by jury and compensation for damages.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


By Juan Montoya
Ever since current Brownsville Independent School District counsel Baltazar Salazar filled out his application for employment with the district in December 2011, that document has been in the public domain.
When the trustees met to choose law firms to represent the board, they were given copies of the application and a compilation of the firms' strengths and weakness. It is noteworthy to state at the outset that Salazar's firm was nowhere near the top of the strongest candidates. In fact, its list of shortcomings placed it somewhere near the bottom of the eight finalists.
Salazar was hired by the majority including the late Enrique Ecobedo, Otis Powers, Jose Chirinos, and Minerva Peña. Catalina Presas-Garcia and Lucy Longoria voted against his hiring.
This much we know about Salazar.
He lied on his application that he had been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, in this case, three arrests and one conviction of felony theft by check.
BISD policies clearly state that no one convicted of a crime of moral turpitude will be hired by the district. The trustees who voted to hire him knew this.
He kept the fact that he had been charged with those three crimes from the board claiming that the convictions had been "set aside."
Even as he stood before the board in April 2013, his application for expunction was being challenged by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
A local trial court (107th District Court) had granted the expunction only to have the 13th Court of Appeals overturn its decision when it found that the convictions had not been "set aside" as Salazar contended, but that he had served probation for at least one of those convictions.
Don't believe it?
Click on this link from the 13th Court of Appeals from August 2013. Unless the 13th Court of Appeals posts lies on its website, we think we should regard their decisions as true? Don't you?
He was hired that April and the court of appeals rendered its decision in August of the same year.
So even as he stood before the board members and made his pitch for the job, Salazar knew all along that the DPS had objected to the trial court's expunction of his criminal record. He also knew that he had lied on his application.
When a request for information was handed to the BISD seeking a copy of the original application, the district objected and sought a Texas Attorney General's opinion claiming that the application was confidential since there was "pending litigation" in the form of a lawsuit filed by trustees Catalina Presas-Garcia and Luci Longoria.
The AG, unaware that there were copies of the application floating around in the public already, granted the exemption based on the litigation.
So now we have a convicted felon as general counsel to the district whose superintendent is a law enforcement officer, and a trustee (Minerva Peña) who makes much about the fact that she was a former officer with the DPS.
If superintendent Carl Montoya is a true-blue law enforcement officer, shouldn't he put a stop to the continued employment of someone who lied about three arrest for felony theft – crimes of moral turpitude – and who is as close to an eighth board member as one could possibly be?
And, hey, Minerva, aren't you supposed to side with your former employers to weed out criminals from working in a school district which could potentially influence the minds of young children?
That bring us to trustee Cesar Lopez, an appointed trustee now running for election. He is Salazar's fourth vote on the board, and the lawyer knows it. So far, he has contributed $4,000 (reported) to Lopez's campaign to defeat Longoria, one of two trustees who voted against hiring him.
This past December, a new majority (Lopez, Peña, Powers and Chirinos) voted to extend Salzar's contract and gave him a 10 percent raise.
There is some question on whether Salzaar's campaign contributions to Lopez were legal, since a clause in his contract prohibits him from making gifts to any public servant "in connection" with his employment. Lopez voted to give him the extension of his $240,000 job and a rise to boot. He got a campaign contribution. Longoria didn't and she didn't get a campaign contribution. Seems pretty plain to us that the $4,000 constitutes a "gift" to Lopez. Why didn't he give money to Longoria? Was it because she voted against the extension?
Salazar is right. He was within the law to make campaign contributions to Robert Rodriguez and Carlos Elizondo. They are not yet elected "public servants." But Lopez is.
Now, Lopez, as a board member who signed on to the contract extension by voting for it is likewise prohibited from receiving gifts from Salazar, one would think. Or doesn't the law matter in this town?
You, the voter, get a chance to decide starting Monday with early voting or in the general election Nov. 4. Choose wisely.


By Juan Montoya
If you passed by Joe Kinney's Cobbleheads this morning and saw all the security and commotion, you probably wondered what the fuss was all about.
Well, Texas gubernatorial politics has reached out to our little corner of the world in the form of Republican candidate Greg Abbott, who if we are to believe the polls, is leading Democrat Wendy Davis by a double-digit lead.
While most Texans beyond Sarita are worried about the Ebola virus outbreak, the mid-term elections, and the like, down here on the order we're concerned with the immediate problems confronting our neighbors to the south and the social and economic effects of "The Troubles."
When asked about whether he was concerned about the problems facing Mexico and the border, Abbott conceded that a crisis, indeed, did exist.
He suggested that only a strong economic surge in the Mexican economy could assuage the cycle of violence an poverty that fed off each other into a deadly spiral that affects every facet of that society and spills over to the north.
Like Gov. Rick Perry, he said that one of his first acts if elected to office would be to invite Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to see the problems facing border residents on either side first hand.
Among those present were the usual GOP suspects like Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos and former Herald reporter Bill Young and the Republican faithful.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


By Juan Montoya
Is this the best they could up with?
That's the question that supporters of Oscar X. Garcia are asking themselves after his challenger for the 357th District Court Juan Magallanes started posting a pushcard ad on his Facebook website.
The ad generally tries to rake Garcia for switching parties, much as did Judge Rolando Olvera.
For the past two months or so, Magallanes has been smarting from the assertions in
Garcia's published ads dealing with the $30,000 loan that he gave convicted 404th District Judge Abel Limas while he had a case before his court.
Later, after a jury had found against Garcia, Limas came back, overturned the jury verdict, and awarded Magallanes's client $195,000 in damages, another $9,500 in interest and (drum roll, please) $50 in attorneys fees for Magallanes, the losing lawyer.
Magallanes has already been caught in a li.., ahem, fib, after he told the Texas State Bar that he had received his law degree from the University of Texas Law School. In fact, he graduated from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston,
Texas is recognized as a top law school in the country and visitors to the site often consult it to determine a lawyer's credentials.  Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law '80 – as the place from which he graduated.
Now there is a world of difference in the ranking of both schools. And the State Bar site accepts the lawyer-submitted education history from attorneys and takes them at their word that the information is correct. The Thurgood Marshall Law, when compared with nine other major law schools in the state, is ranked dead last while UT Law is at the very top.
When that fact was pointed out, the Magallanes camp contacted the State Bar and removed the claim.
The question Magallanes ask on the very bottom of his pushcard reads: "De we really need another judge that lies to you?"
Unless he's talking about himself, or Limas, it's a mystery who he's referring to.
Magallanes, of course, can't find any such incriminating history on Garcia, so the party switching is about the only charge they have to make against Garcia.
We won't publish the whole pushcard ad (and neither will any reputable newspaper) because, frankly, we don't think he can prove that Garcia promised Gov. Perry he would remain a Republican in exchange for the appointments he made. In fact, the assertion n the pushcard that Garcia has never returned any of the contributions made by Democrats to his campaign conveniently doesn't state that no campaign donor (Dem or Repub) has ever asked for the return of a donation.
In fact, in the past two or three months, the Garcia campaign has been the recipient of endorsements from well-known office holders (current and past) from both parties.
The latest defections from the Democratic camp have been Ruben Peña, the former candidate for Cameron COunty judge and commissioner as well as Dr. Manuel Gomez Jr., past superintendent of the San Benito ISD.
In the past, other endorsements have been Dr. Joe Zayas, past president of the State Dental Examiners, and Connie De la Garza, former mayor for the City of Harlingen.
With Garcia's pollster – based on a sample of 400 voters – giving him a double-digit edge over Magallanes, it was apparently necessary for Juan to come up with something – anything – that would cast Garcia is a bad light.
And just today, Magallanes and Texas Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa (his old law partner) were pressing the flesh at the Los Camperos Restaurant.
No esta pegando el chicle, Juan?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


By  Various Sources
The Houston-based lawyer who represented the Brownsville Independent School District against the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and had it pay nearly $10 million in unpaid claims to the district used numerous racist and hateful emails from TWIA officials he obtained from the association through the discovery process.
Steve Mostyn, a Houston-based lawyer, revealed the details of the settlement Saturday to the BISD trustees during a Special Called Meeting.
An Associated Press report indicates that aprt from the $.92 million from TWIA, the BISD also receive a $2 milion settlemetn from Gab Robins North America Inc., an insurance underwiter.
The lawsuit was filed by the then-BISD trustees for claims they say weren't paid following a 2008 hurricane.
Mostyn, who has made an empire specializing in hurricane damage claims, has also contributed heavily to the campaigns of prominent Democrat candidates, and specializes in going after the claims denied by the TWIA.
In 2012, Mostyn, founder of the Mostyn Law Firm, established himself as a mega donor when he contributed $3 million to Priorities USA Action, a pro President Barack Obama PAC.
Some local attorneys say that Mostyn, through local go-betweens and Political Action Committees, (PACs) is also contributing heavily in the 2004 school board elections of the BISD.
Surces say that foremost among the candidates said to benefit from Mostyn's interest in the BISD have been former Coach Joe Rodriguez and, incidentally, Cesar Lopez. The go-between to the candidates is said to be BISD board attorneys Baltazar Salazar whose offices are also located in Houston.
Of the almost $10 million settlement Mostyn gained for BISD, his law firm will get a 40 to 45 percent cut, or somewhere around $5 million after expenses.
In an article published online in the "Washington Examiner" this month, writer David Yates states that: "In just the past three months, the Mostyns have contributed more than $2.3 million to Texas candidates, with the bulk of the funds going toward state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, campaign finance records show."
In his webpage, Mostyn says that the three hurricanes that devastated the Texas Coast from Houston to Beaumont, and Galveston to the Rio Grande Valley damaged countless homes, businesses, churches, schools, and government office buildings.
A large number of cases filed for damages by insurance companies in these areas for their clients were denied by the TWIA.
"In courthouses in Galveston and the Rio Grande Valley, and in the state capitol in Austin, we revealed tens of thousands of instances of insurance company misconduct," he wrote in his company's website.
"Our team of lawyers and investigators spent thousand of hours reviewing millions of pages of documents, emails, and internal insurance company memos. And our engineers and experts proved that insurance companies had denied, delayed, and underpaid billions of dollars in covered claims."Mostyn claims that "evidence we uncovered led to a criminal investigation of one major national insurance company and a US Department of Justice investigation of another."
Among the successes Mostyn claims is that two years after Hurricane Ike, "the TWIA paid $189 million dollars to 2,400 families whose homes were completely destroyed by the storm. Years later, TWIA agreed to a second settlement of $135 million dollars to settle 1,200 additional claims. And our firm settled tens of thousands of other individual hurricane claims."
Mostyn and local counsel firms represented the district in the case. He argued that race was a factor in the denial of the district's claims.
A TWIA spokeswoman told the Associated Press that she couldn't comment on the case. Another spokeswoman previously said before that race was never a factor in settling the claims.
Mostyn made hundreds of millions of dollars suing TWIA, the sole provider of windstorm insurance in the state.
As previously reported by a tort-reform group, in the latest round of campaign finance reports reveal the Mostyns donated $200,000 to Texas House candidate Susan Criss, a former Galveston judge who presided over the majority of Hurricane Ike suits.


By Juan Montoya
For the past 10 years, the Cameron County jail commissary contract has gone to  Snakre Vending, LLC of Brownsville.
Only within the last two has the county gone out for bids. Before that, it was up to the discretion of the Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio and his staff who decided who got it.
A report by the county auditor indicated that sales to inmates for fiscal year 2009 were $925,512, of which $765,732 were paid to the vendor. The owners of Snakre are attorney Rick Zayas and his partner Ruben Cortez. Both are former Brownsville Independent School District board of trustees.
In 2011, that amount was $781,542.
The sheriff move to put the contract out for bids after the local newspaper disclosed that Cortez was a cousin to Lucio's chief deputy.
Cortez also happens to be the son of Justice of the Peace 2-1 Linda Salazar.
After the bids were considered, Snakre was again awarded the contract.
Fermin Leal, the sheriff's dept. commander in charge of recommending the award, is a longtime employee in the department and works under Lucio and his chief deputy.
For years, the families of inmates have complained that the commissary franchise holder has been "gouging" the prisoners,a veritable captive audience of some 1,200.
Many relatives and inmates say that the contract gives a free hand to the vendor to set prices for the prisoners, who are not allowed to bring in any supplies save prescription medicine, from the outside. A pair of plain white (the only color sold or allowed) boxer shorts will cost $4.50. A set of three shorts at Wal-Mart will cost about the same, or less.
And at wholesale, those same shorts probably cost less than $1.
A thermal top, a critical item inside where temperatures are kept very cold, is listed at $8.30, more than twice or three times the cost at a store on the outside. A woman's plain sport bra (no metal parts) will cost a female inmate $9.00. Panties are $2.70 each. A travel pack of Femtex Tampons cost $3.00
And a serving of Ramen or Maruchan noodles you can buy at HEB or Wal-Mart for 15 to 20 cents go for 65 cents apiece.  A bag of off-brand tortilla chips that would cost less than $2 sells for $3.25.
The gouging doesn't stop there. Snakre sells phone card PIN numbers to the inmates and charges $2 off the top for themselves. Lets' say someone buys $20 in phone privileges for an inmate. Snakre takes $2 off the top and credits the inmate with $18. In Hidalgo County, the county keeps the $2 and it goes to the general fund. How the $2 is split is anyone's guess.
In other words, the commissary contract is a money maker to whoever gets it.
A mandatory pre-proposal meeting will be held Wednesday, Oct. 15 and the the request for proposals is posted on Cameron County’s website.
The proposals are due no later than 11 a.m. Oct. 28.
Any bets that Snakre will get it again for the next two years, the duration of Lucio's current term?


By Juan Montoya
Consider these facts:
Item on the Brownsville Independent School District Dec. 10, 2013 Agenda:

30. Discussion, consideration and possible action of an extension of board attorney contract.
Ayes: Otis Powers, Cesar Lopez, Minerva Peña, Jose Chirinos
Nays: Catalina Presas-Garcia, Luci Longoria

Result: Board counsel Baltazar Salazar's contract was extended and his $240,000 annual salary was increased by 10 percent to $264,000. He was also elevated from board counsel to General Counsel.

Gifts to Public Servants Clause in Salazar's contract:
"General Counsel warrants that he has not given, nor does he intend to give, at any time hereafter, any economic opportunity, future employment, gift, loan, gratuity, special discounts, trips, favors, or service to a public servant in connection with the award of this agreement."
Clause in contract between BISD General Counsel Baltazar Salazar and the district

Fast forward to campaign for Nov. 4 General Election to the 30-Days Before Election Report filed by Cesar Lopez:
Baltazar gave:
*$2,500 to Lopez June 23
*$1,500 to Lopez again on July 18

*$0 to Luci Longoria

According to Salazar, his $4,000 in cash donations to Lopez – who voted to extend his contract and give him a raise – is not in any way connected to that public servant's aye vote for his contract or his raise.
“The reason ‘in connection with’ is so important because if you read the whole paragraph, the idea is that if somebody were to give a campaign contribution in exchange for a contract or exchange for an
extension then that would be illegal," Baltazar told News Central (Channel 4).
So how can he explain that he did not give money to Longoria who voted against him?
Does he really expect us to believe that there was no "connection" between their respective votes and his contributions?


By Ryan Wolf
Valley Central 4

Campaign contributions by Baltazar Salazar, an attorney for the Brownsville Independent School District, are at the center of an ethics complaint.

He gave Cesar Lopez, an appointed board member in 2013 who’s now seeking election in November, $4,000, according to campaign finance reports.

Caty Presas-Garcia, a fellow school board member since 2008, called the contributions a breach of Salazar’s contract with the district.

“Giving $4,000, when you're a board attorney, and you give $4,000 to an existing board member, that's not a very good message out there," Presas-Garcia said.

Campaign finance reports indicated Lopez received two contributions from Salazar, which included $2,500 on June 23rd and $1,500 on July 18th.

Presas-Garcia said she planned to file a complaint with the State Bar of Texas.

“For me, you're securing your votes and you're becoming this buddy, buddy friend with the candidates,” she told Action 4’s Ryan Wolf. “So when your time comes around to extend your contract, you're already in versus being based on the experience and ethics that you follow."

The portion of Salazar's contract in question is under the section “Gift to Public Servant,” according to Presas-Garcia.

That section of the contract stated: “General Counsel warrants that he has not given, nor does he intend to give, at any time hereafter, any economic opportunity, future employment, gift, loan, gratuity, special discounts, trips, favors, or service to a public servant in connection with the award of this agreement.”

Salazar explained over the phone that his political contributions do not violate his contract.

“The reason ‘in connection with’ is so important because if you read the whole paragraph, the idea is that if somebody were to give a campaign contribution in exchange for a contract or exchange for an extension then that would be illegal," he said.

Lopez doesn't feel the contributions violated anything either.

He said the process of receiving campaign contributions is permitted almost everywhere.

Lopez told Action 4 News he votes simply based on the best interest of the district and not on who gave money to his campaign.
For the rest of the story, click on link:

Monday, October 13, 2014


                                                                                             Para Español, presiona aquí.
By Tony Garza
U.S. Ambassador (Ret.)

I’ve been following Mexico’s energy reform closely—from the lead-up to the constitutional reform through the passing of the secondary legislation. Almost one year in, what Mexico has accomplished is nothing short of historic. The reform went far beyond what many believed possible and international energy companies are already busy announcing their investment plans and partnerships with Pemex.

But this doesn’t mean that the work is done. And in fact, for many companies the game is just beginning. Though not grabbing the headlines, today’s process of designing contracts and bidding rounds, will be, in many respects, far more critical. Mexican officials will be hitting the road over the next weeks, meeting with investors and companies in Houston, New York, and beyond.
Their job will be to explain the rules of the bidding rounds and seek input on the fiscal terms, which could be announced as soon as November. Getting these terms right, and implementing the other parts of the secondary legislation, will be critical to laying the reform’s foundation (something I’ve written about before here). It will also be important for bringing in the foreign investment necessary to reverse declining oil production and develop new fields (estimated to be around $8.5 billion annually).

Some of this investment will come from Mexican companies and their counterparts in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. But U.S. companies, given their deep economic relationship with Mexico, are particularly well positioned to take advantage of these new opportunities.

U.S. companies have a long history of doing business in Mexico, sending south an average of $10 billion a year between 2002 and 2012. Up until now, much of this money was channeled into Mexico’s manufacturing sector (helping create today’s North American manufacturing platform). But the energy reform opens up entirely new sectors for investment, and not just for major oil and gas production companies. Midstream infrastructure gaps and opening competition in the electricity sector are just two more possible opportunities.

The two countries also sent back and forth a total of $57 billion in oil and gas products in 2013, totaling some 12 percent of the $500 billion in bilateral trade. While this was the highest amount of total trade ever for the two countries, 2014’s exchanges look to be even larger. From January through July of this year, bilateral trade was $15 billion more than during the same period in 2013 (equaling $74 million more in goods every day).

And Texas is front and center as the number could grow further with the completion of the Ramones Pipeline, which some are calling the future backbone of Mexico’s natural gas pipeline network. Stretching from Agua Dulce in Texas to Central Mexico, the pipeline will connect the Texas’s natural gas fields to Mexico’s manufacturing heartland and begin funneling cheap gas south starting in December 2015.

Bottom line, there is a lot to be watching in Mexico and along our border. So, if you are thinking of investing here in country, or are already doing business in Mexico, I’d like to hear from you. And don’t forget to stay in touch on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Antonio Garza


  SAN ANTONIO — Southside Independent School District Superintendent Ricardo Vela's  continued bending of the rules while trying to gain his state certification needs to be stopped.

He is making a mockery of the Texas public educator certification system, and his actions are an affront to certified school teachers and superintendents who play by the rules.

Vela, who lacks superintendent certification credentials required by the state, is seeking to fulfill one of the basic requirements, teacher certification, by doing his student teaching in his own district supervised by his own employees, San Antonio Express-News education writer Alia Malik reported.

He is going through TeacherBuilder, an online program operated by Noe Sauceda, a former superintendent who was fired by Brownsville ISD in 2008 for hiring unqualified employees, among other things. That history raises other issues about whether Sauceda is qualified to supervise a rogue superintendent, but we leave that debate for another day.

In addition to obtaining teaching credentials, state law requires two creditable years of experience as a classroom teacher for certification as a principal, which is required for superintendent certification. It will be interesting to see how Vela plans to manage that while holding down a full-time job as superintendent.

Vela told Malik, “I’m going to do what I have to do to take care of what I need to do to get certified. If anyone has a problem with it, well, I’m sorry.”

What Vela is doing is wrong on many levels, and his failure to see the inherent problems is indicative of the lack of professionalism he brings to the job. He cannot be allowed to continue on his current path, making up the rules as he goes along.

(To read the rest of the story, click on link:)

Sunday, October 12, 2014


By Juan Montoya
That blast Sunday half-page ad by Brownsville Independent School District school board candidate for Position 1 reminds us a another candidate who called on motherhood, apple pie and the defense of a woman's virtue when he couldn't argue withy substance.
In the last primary, a county commissioner candidate challenged his opponent to step outside and "settle this thing man to man" when his wife's involvement in his campaign – a district judge who is supposed to stay away from partisan politic – was pointed out.
Lopez is in a four-way race for the position with two other candidates besides Luci Longoria, but he has targeted her from day one with his attack on her suing the BISD over the majority (Lopez, Otis Powers, Minerva Peña, and Jose Chirinos) for – among other things – not allowing the placement of item on the agenda after the board adopted the policy requiring three board members' signatures before it was placed on a board agenda.
Since then, Longoria and Catalina Presas-Garcia's agenda items have been excluded from the board's consideration. Lopez could easily demonstrate that he respects the women's First Amendment right and their freedom of speech by simply signing on to place the items on the agenda and allow the public to determine the correctness of the issues in a healthy open debate.
Instead, he has chosen to go along with the others and effectively gagged them and went along with the majority's agenda.
(That's Lopez with the Ernie and Norma Hernandez vote-harvesting machine's politiquero Joey Garza during a casino fundraising event.)
It's one thing for a lunatic blogger to besmirch Longoria's mortality and alleged character flaws, but it its quite another for someone to mouth their respect for a fellow board member and claim he respects her freedom of speech and then gag them by simply omitting his signature to let them have their say.
If Lopez's mom (he brought her up in a newspaper ad, not Longoria) taught him to respect others, then he should respect her and not get her involved in an ad where he attacks his opponent for being "negative."
Lopez's main platforms seem to be focused on the $2 million lawsuit brought by both women against him and the majority of the board, the lawyer, and the administration of the BISD. But he knows that the original motions filed in court aim high and eventually settle for the cost of legal representation and a much smaller amount. Longoria has pledged to use money damages paid her to set up a fund to help teachers defray expensed for instructional equipment so it doesn't come out of their pocket.
Interestingly, the ad that Lopez objected to as "negative"  states the following.
Q: Cesar Lopez says he wants to spend your money on teachers and students, but where was he when we voted on the Employee Compensation Plan?

Answer: He was Missing In Action and absent from the June 25 Special Board Meeting where the BISD administration passed a plan with no raises for teachers. I abstained in protest.

Q: And where was he when the majority gave records manager Martin Arambula a $15,000 increase – $75,940 to $90,061 – making more than 53 campus principals who are responsible for the education of hundreds of students and the supervision of teachers, staff, and campus security?

Answer: Cesar was certainly there for his pal Martin to vote for what I believed then – and still believe now – was an unjustified pay increase. I voted against it.

Q: And where was he July 15 when the board majority voted to hire two extra Area Assistant Superintendents not included in the 2014-2015 Adopted Budget or Compensation Plan and not posted correctly on the agenda, a violation of the Open Meetings Act?

Answer: Cesar was there for these highly-paid administrators and voted for the hires despite the apparent illegality. I stood up for teachers and other deserving professionals and voted against it.

The Brownsville Herald is a stickler for documentation on political ads. We're sure that the advertising executives, the publisher, and the paper's lawyers scoured the ad and the documentation for inaccuracies.
If anything, the statements above are based on facts provided the newspaper by Longoria. That the facts cast Lopez in a negative light and he didn't like what he saw is like the mean godmother accusing the mirror of her defects.
Did Cesar's mom (God bless her) ever teach him the Spanish saying: La verdad no duele, pero incomoda?


 "Impoverished defendants are entitled to a lower standard of defense." Ass. D.A. prosecutors
By Saki Knafo
Huffington Post
In 2005, Manuel Velez, a construction worker in Brownsville, Texas, moved in with his girlfriend, Acela Moreno. Two weeks later, he noticed that Moreno's 11-month-old baby, Angel, was struggling to breathe. Velez woke Moreno and went next door to get help, but by the time the rescue workers showed up, the boy had lost consciousness. Angel died in the hospital soon after.
In the following weeks, a medical examiner found signs of injuries to the baby's head -- evidence suggesting that someone had fatally hit him. Prosecutors soon fingered Velez, 40, as the culprit. Although he had no history of violence, apart from an arrest after a bar fight when he was in his 20s, a jury found Velez guilty of capital murder and sent him to death row.
Velez maintained his innocence, but had little reason to believe he would win his appeal. Of the more than 500 inmates who have walked through the gates of the state's death row unit since the reinstatement of the Texas death penalty in 1982, only 12 have been exonerated, according to data complied by the Death Penalty Information Center.
Yet as a team of lawyers began looking into the case, as part of a pro bono joint effort with the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project, the story woven by the prosecutors began to unravel. Last year, a judge reviewed the case and found that Velez's public defenders had failed to present many pieces of evidence that could have established their client's innocence. And so on Wednesday at 11:32 p.m., after five years on death row, Velez became one of the few condemned inmates in the history of the state to walk free.
"Manuel never belonged in prison, let alone on death row waiting to be executed,"said Velez's attorney, Brian Stull of the American Civil Liberties Union's Capital Punishment Project, in a statement. "He is indisputably innocent."
To Velez's supporters, his release on Wednesday is the culmination of a legal drama that exposed many of the broader problems plaguing the justice system in Texas and beyond. The case "contained a litany of injustices, including police misconduct, prosecutorial deception, ineffectiveness of defense counsel, and untruthful witnesses," said Richard Dieter, head of the Death Penalty Information Center, in a statement.
"This is the story of an innocent man who went to death row because the entire system failed," Stull told HuffPost.
If the system had worked better, Stull and other supporters argue, Velez's court-appointed attorneys would have realized that Velez could not have possibly delivered the blows that killed the infant. According to records kept by the prosecutor's own medical examiner, there was clear evidence that baby had sustained the injuries when Velez was a thousand miles away, on a construction site in Tennessee. But the lawyers, Hector Villarreal and O. Rene Flores, didn't uncover or present that evidence to the jury.
There was also evidence that Moreno routinely hit her children, and that she had on one occasion thrown Angel onto a couch from five feet away. But the lawyers didn't call any of the witnesses with this information to testify.
Villarreal has since died, and Flores didn't respond to a request for comment from HuffPost on Wednesday.
Moreno, for her part, was arrested shortly after Angel's death. She testified against Velez in exchange for a chance to plead guilty to the charge of injury to a child, a crime for which the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison. She was released from prison in 2010 and was deported to Mexico, having been staying in the United States illegally.
(To read the rest of the story, click on link below)
Prisoner Walks Free After Years On Texas Death Row


(Ed.'s note: No one has quite the same inimitable style to put things in perspective as does our locally-esteemed scribe Dr. G.F. McHale Scully. While some may find some of the characterizations objectionable, the message in the following missive is dead on. Here, without his permission, are his latest observations on United Brownsville and the pilferage of the public's money by the alphabet soup of brigands named GBIC, BCIC and BEDC)

By Dr. G.F. Mchale-Scully

The Brownsville Independent School District needs to serve notice to United Brownsville that the BISD is no longer going to waste money paying Mike "La Galleta" Gonzalez's salary when children have more pressing needs.
United Brownsville is the shadowy government ruled by Julieta "La Santissima Putissima" Garcia, Carlos "El Mago" Marin and Fred "The Kraut" Rusteberg. They operate as Mayor Tony "Tormenta" Martinez's kitchen cabinet.
"I wouldn't call UB a shadowy government any more," noted a former Brownsville Herald columnist. "Debbie Portillo, UB's one-time Girl Friday, now sits on the city commission. By allowing the mayor to suckle on her nipples, he allows the bigwigs to suck on the public tit."
County Judge Carlos Cascos from the beginning refused to commit the county to this wasteful venture. Rumor has TSC opting out next year.
"UB has been a con job from the beginning," continued the same journalist. "Former Mayor Eddie 'Panocha' Trevino gave Marin, his patron, $1 million to publish a comic book called Imagine Brownsville. Since they had to show something tangible for their efforts, they promoted the shell game now known as United Brownsville."

But UB is a mere distraction hardly worth a penny compared to the million-dollar boondoggles that the Greater Brownsville Incentive Corporation (GBIC) and the Brownsville Economic Development Council (BEDC) have foisted on the community.

Their list of failures is endless: Titan Wheel International, Allison Manufacturing, Neoplan USA, Woodway Manufacturing, Horace Small Apparel, Taylorcraft Aviation and BWD Automotive are only a few of the colossal fiascoes.

"GBIC and BEDC just spent millions on an industrial park that doesn't have one plant in it," said the former Herald writer. "It was nothing more than an insider real estate deal. But then the relationship between GBIC and BEDC is nothing more than an insider deal. The former has sunk millions in the latter's bureaucratic black hole. BEDC makes one bad decision after another because the same players are cheating at the game."

Those players include the notable con artists who comprise BEDC's board: Marin, Trevino, Mayor Tony Martinez, Port Director Eddie Campirano, PUB Board Member Manny Vasquez and UTB puppet Irv Downing among other fawning wannabes.

Jason "Jackass" Hilts is BEDC's CEO. Several years ago he spent thousands on the company credit card for personal items. When Brownsville Convention & Visitors Bureau's Mike Gonzalez--not UB's front man--was nabbed doing the same thing, his board fired him. Hilts, to the bewilderment of all logical thinkers, has been the recipient of several substantial raises since that incident.

Since GBIC sits on millions, Hilts counts on board members Sandra "Long Legs" Langley and Ed "Can't Get Out of Bed" Sikes for money to underwrite exotic trips around the world that produce nothing but an exotic vacation for public officials.

"When CEO Jason Hilts appears before the GBIC board, his mission is two-fold--tantalize the board with their favorite buzzwords indicating economic growth and reassure the members that his tireless efforts on the city's behalf justify his six-figure income and lavish travel," wrote Jim "Balls" Barton in his blog Mean Mister Brownsville.

"Hilts is a salesman and those in sales are always aware of the need to sell themselves."

Hilts is the ultimate huckster. He talks a good game, but his accomplishments are few and far between. Rather than endorsing luring an Olive Garden into the Manautou Building downtown and constructing a 10,000 seat near Veterans Memorial Bridge to spur economic development, he'd rather give Oscar "El Sapo" Garcia thousands to amuse himself on a hair-brain scheme.

"GBIC and BEDC have never been anything but a slush fund for the likes of UTB's Garcia, the Ku Klux Kardenas Klan and Bill Hudson," concluded the ex-columnist. "United Brownsville's days are number. Gonzalez doesn't even vote in Brownsville.

"But GBIC and BEDC are far more evil entities. Why doesn't my one-time newspaper investigate the dark side of the new industrial park? The daily would find that GBIC and BEDC are in cahoots with the usual thieves and, as usual, they are raping and pillaging the taxpayer."

Saturday, October 11, 2014


By Juan Montoya
Remember the power outage that left Veterans High School and Villa Nueva Elementary schools last Thursday?
The Brownsville Public Utility Board told the local media that a car accident had knocked out a power pole at the intersection of Alton Gloor and Military Highway at approximately 3 a.m. that morning.
When administrators arrived at the school before the students arrived, they knew they could not attend classes.
Nonetheless – at least at Veterans – the administration under principal Maria Solis decided to keep the students at the campus for no apparent reason. They could have just as easily turned back the buses, prevented parents from dropping off kids, or just notified students who drive to school that they were dismissed for the day.
Instead, Solis (under direction from the main office?) held the students until past 11 a.m., the required time when the district can charge the state for their attendance. In fact, no students attended classes that day.
Meanwhile, those students who could called their parents to come after them after 11 a.m., creating a monstrous (and dangerous) traffic chaos that extended a couple of miles from the school toward town.
It wasn't until close to noon that the district buses, having to detour around through Olmito to avoid the jam on Military arrived to ferry the bus riders to their respective drop off points.
Parents who were called to pick up their children had to wait in the traffic jam and then enter the school parking lot where they waited for their kids to leave. But then they found out that the security guards were not letting anyone leave the campus until they had a release from the main office. That mean waiting in another line outside the main door of the school. Inside, it was wall-to-wall humanity as parents and students milled around waiting for permission to leave the campus.
One can imagine the frustration of the campus security gatekeepers trying to deal withe the traffic jam of cars coming inn, and trying to keep parents with their kids without passing by without the proper authorization.
This is where the consequences of this stupid, inept and heavy-handed management style became evident.
Word got around the campus that those students who had driven to school could leave, but first they had to wait to get a permission slip to pass through security.
One 17-year-old thought she could make it past the security checkpoint and tried to leave through the rear gate, only to find it locked. She then tried to go through the front gate. Groups of her classmates cheered her on and she drove up to the gate only to be flagged down by a female security guard.
With the rest of the students yelling encouragement to the teen, the security guard said she could not let her get away with it and alleged that the 17-year-old who had never even gotten a parking ticket and felt that she had tried to run her over. (It may be her visible on the right hand side of the car being checked in the photo at right.)
It was all the teen could do to explain and apologize telling her she was not trying to run her over.
The teen said that the guard told her she could not allow her to get away with it because it would undermine  her authority before the rest of the students.
So she arrested the 17-year-old, handcuffed her, and called the Brownsville Police Department to have her jailed at the city lockup until her parent came to bail her out.
She also ordered her car to be impounded and her mother had to pay the towing company about $250 to have it released.
A simple phone call to PUB from the school administration or from the main office would have informed them that the pole would be replaced and that electric service would resume later that afternoon. Instead, they made a deliberate decision to subject all the students and their parents (plus motorists using Military Highway) to inconvenience, danger, and perhaps automobile accidents because they wanted to charge the state for attendance.
In the case of the 17-year-old, it meant being handcuffed, subjected to the humiliation of being thrown in jail and having her parent pay the $250 to a towing company. Depending on the outcome of her court trial, this 17-year-old with an unblemished record may be subjected to a criminal charge, see her insurance premiums rocket, and bear the cost for the unmitigated greed of the high school administration and the district.
To the high school principal and the administrators in the district: Your actions set an example to the students you teach. They see and judge your every act. This is the example you want to set so that they in turn repeat it? Why make a bad situation worse by committing these types of ill-considered acts that have untold consequences on everyone else to satisfy your personal whims?


By Juan Montoya
No sooner is Cameron County Sheriff Dept. Chief Deputy Gus Reyna chastised for not reporting a car accident while in his county vehicle than we get word that the Reyna family is facing another hurdle.
Several sources have confirmed that Javier Reyna, Gus' brother, has been stricken with kidney cancer and that he has been sent to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for treatment.
Javier is a captain in the sheriff's department investigator, holding a position just below his brother who is second in command at Omar Lucio's shop.
Those who know Javier know him as a no-nonsense lawman with fierce loyalty to Lucio and to his brother.
We wish him the best in his ongoing ordeal.


By Juan Montoya
In surreptitious gatherings in ranches around Cameron County, a small group of lawyers and candidates to the Brownsville Independent School District have gathered to formulate a plan and funnel money to take over the financial plums of the $520 million district budget.
The campaign finance reports that would normally alert investigators and voting fraud sleuths are fantasies. Except for candidate Cesar Lopez, most don't show what some of our sources tell us is big money coming from law firms from out of the county to fund the campaigns of those they consider friendly to their designs.
Again and again, the name of Steve Mostyn, a Houston lawyer specializing in hurricane damage claims keeps popping up among the conspirators.
The scuttlebutt is that money from different sources is being funneled without any of the required reporting. They speak of bundles of cash handed out in desolate ranches to aid specific candidates.
The BISD has by far the biggest budget for those who want to line their pockets. Whether it's the lucrative insurance health and legal contracts, the sale of services or goods such as gasoline for its vehicle and school bus fleet, athletic equipment, or a myriad of other goods and services, the money is there for the taking if the right people are on the board.
Lopez, by the way, is named in a federal lawsuit as having helped the nlate board president Enrique Escobedo and his brother Jaime to get the lucrative surveillance contract with the Mercedes ISD for which he worked as a purchasing agent. When he was named to replace Christina Saavedra as trustee, red flags went up from here to Hidalgo County.
Some of the firms who were rejected in favor of American Surveillance cried foul and went to state and federal authorities with their complaint.
Lopez now works for the State of Texas Buy Board and has a direct role in where local school districts buy the various services and supplies. We hear that he is pushing for the BISD to purchase its gasoline and other fuels through the Buy Board for which he works.
Aside from Lopez – who so far has reported receiving $4,000 in contributions from the board attorney and thousands more from other attorneys and vendors – the name of Joe Rodriguez, a former coach, athletic director and trustee, is also mentioned as a benefactor of the group.
There is no question that Rodriguez – a vendor for sports equipment – made thousands of dollars in commissions from his sales. At least three audits – two performed by the district and one by a forensic auditor from Dallas, indicated numerous fiscal irregularities in his various financial endeavors while he was with the district.
A previous board sympathetic to Coach Joe even went as far as to legally contest a Texas Attorney General's opinion that the audits could be released to the local newspaper. The audits eventually were released, much to the discomfort of Rodriguez and his supporters on the board then.
The hiring of Salazar as a board attorney in April 2013 added a new twist to the BISD dynamics.
Although his firm ranked last of the eight law firms that replied to the BISD Request For Proposals, the new board majority awarded him the legal contract at a hefty $240,000 annual retainer. In effect, Salazar is making more than the superintendent and is only required to attend one monthly meeting.
But Salazar is the quintessential rainmaker of Girsham novels. He has dispensed the legal goodies far and wide. When trustees Catalina Presas-Garcia and Luci Longoria sued the board members of the majority, he enlisted the law firm of Chaney, Colvin, Saenz and Rodriguez to defend the district.
It just so happened that the "Rodriguez" partner turns out to be the son of candidate Joe Rodriguez who is facing Shirley La Bowman and Mary Rey for a spot on the board.
Rodriguez also has a lawsuit pending against the district over the release of the forensic audit that questioned the selection of his sports equipment company by then-AD and Rodriguez  protege Tom Chavez.
Embroiled as he is in litigation with the district and with his son's firm having been paid nearly $200,000 so far to defend against the Presas-Garcia-Longoria lawsuit, Rodriguez has an obvious personal stake in getting elected to the board.
Salazar has hedged his bets by not only financially supporting Lopez whose fourth vote insures him a majority and his bloated salary, but also by giving two other candidates running for the same position $2,000 each in this reporting period.
There's more where that came from, we're sure. As the goal toward the Nov. 4 general election draws near, we're sure that more big money will flow from Salazar toward his candidates in the races. How much will show up in the campaign finance reports is anybody's guess.
However, so far those reports are the best-selling fiction going around.


By Juan Montoya
With nine days left before the start of early voting for the Nov. 4 general election, the Cameron County Elections Department says that about 1,900 mail-in ballots have already been received at their office.
This, apparently, is the result of both the Republican and Democratic parties push to boost voting by mail among the 65 and over voters in their respective camps.
Now, with former Carmon County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa chairman of the Texas Democratic party, it appears that he is taking a page from the GOP book and trying to catch up with their efforts.
But there is yet another aspect to this mail-in strategy. Cameron County has been a traditional haven for politiqueros and politiqueras for pay who will go to the highest bidder. Their prey have been the elderly and disabled, who they recruit at local adult day-care centers.
There, they befriend the often lonely people and convince them to fill out a mail-in ballot application. The politiqueros then appear at their door after a week or two and ask them if they have received their "poll tax," or mail-in ballot.
If they have, the trusted assistant then offers to help them fill it out. Sometimes, they just have the elderly and gullible victim sign their name and they fill out the ballot on behalf of the candidates who pay them.
This thrust by both major parties to seek the elderly vote has a few local wrinkles as well.
The traditional politiqueras allied with Democratic candidates are guided by the lists provided them by the county Democratic party and know where the applications went. This saves the politiqueras the trouble of filling out applications themselves. The applications – through the mass mailings – are already there for them. Following a list of elderly voters by neighborhood will allow them to zero in on their intended targets.
Then, there's the existing lists of mail-in votes that have been cultivated over the years by these political operatives. These people have been accustomed over the years to see the politiqueras appear at their door. At the Brownsville High Rise of the Brownsville Housing Authority one politiquera showed up with a half-dozen tamales for her "clients," who willingly gave up their ballots to "la señora del poll tax." 
That was Tomasita Chavez. She was one of the five women indicted recently for voting fraud associated with the mail-in ballots.
Another, Margarita Ozuna, would show up in the barrios all over Brownsville but the voters at different barrios knew her under different names. At some barrios she was known as "Dora," and in others as "Maria," etc.
Ozuna was also indicted by a Cameron County grand jury after an investigation by the State of Texas Attorney General's Office.
The federal government was also busy sending a message to local politiqueras that there might be a price to pay for their manipulation of the mail-in ballots. The government indicted Sonia Solis after she voted five times from the same address as five different disabled voters. She was arrested in Ft. Worth by federal agents and brought to Brownsville for trial.
During the sentencing hearing, she named several other politiqueras who she said taught her how to manipulate the ballots in favor of their candidates. She said during the hearing that the lessons were held at Fiesta Graphics, a business owned and operated by Ernie and Norma Hernandez. Hernandez has been a politician who has won nearly every race that he's through mail-in ballots.
He was recently forced to resign from his Pct. 2 county commissioner position after he admitted manipulating the civil service hiring process on behalf of his brother-in-law. During the 2010 elections, his daughter Erin Hernandez Garcia was the beneficiary of mail-in votes that gave her the victory over runoff opponent Yolanda Begum.
The folks over at the Citizens Against Voter Abuse (CAVA) are hoping that these indictments and guilty pleas will throw a wet towel on the illegal activities involving the mail-in voting. But now with the push by both parties to increase that number, they admit that the potential for abuse has increased.
"We just hope that the politiqueras harvesting votes got the message through the indictments and convictions," said director Mary Helen Flores. "We won't know until the results are in whether they did or not."

Friday, October 10, 2014


By Juan Montoya
Well, just when you think that politicians would get the message that hanging around what is left of the Hernandez vote-harvesting machine is the kiss of death, guess who was seen courting their support?
Would you believe Brownsville Independent School District board of trustees candidates Robert Rodriguez and Cesar Lopez.
Both were seen at one of the casino night events so favored by the Hernandez to flaunt their politiqueros. Foremost among these minor demons was Joey Garza, a loyal Hernandez flunky who formed part of the vote-harvesting machine.
Joey specializes in dealing cards at these events. During the Erin Hernandez campaign for Justice of the Peace 2-2, his name appears on voter assistant lists showing he was one of the operatives who hauled in the elderly voters from local adult day care centers. His name also appears on mail-in ballots collected by other politiqueras. When the elderly voters were asked if they knew who he was, to a person they all said they didn't and couldn't explain why his name was on their ballot envelopes as having collected the ballots.
That Lopez and Rodriguez would court these operatives' services to make their run for the BISD board does not bode well.
Lopez faces Luci Longoria, Rolando N. Guerra, and Juan Pacheco in Place 1.
Rodriguez is facing Carlos Elizondo in Place 2.
That these two candidates were willing to court the favor of the Hernandez crew – Ernie, Norma and Erin were all there – indicates that they think the rehabilitation as political movers and shakers is well underway.
Displaying IMG_89397015110363.jpegMeanwhile, Lopez's fellow trustee Minerva Peña is making no secret who she is supporting for Place 1, and it isn't Longoria. Peña, whose candidacy for JP 2-3 went over like a lead balloon, doesn't really have a good track record when it comes to endorsing candidates.
In that race she endorsed former constable Pete Avila against Mary Esther Garcia, just days after the news broke that a former secretary in his office had settled for $150,000 with the county on a sexual harassment complaint. That sealed the deal on Avila's candidacy.
Minerva's endorsement may not have been the straw that broke the camel's back, but it didn't help Pete either. Is history repeating itself?
When he learned that his opponent for Place 2 was hobnobbing with the Hernandez and their minions at the casino night fundraiser, Elizondo said that it showed who was really behind Rodriguez's campaign.
"Dios los hace, ellos solos se juntan," Elizondo laughed.


By Juan Montoya
Quick now. Did you notice the missing faces when you last went by the Cameron County Courthouse?
How about the Dancy Building?
Prominent among the missing is Cameron County Building Maintenance director Marcelino Ybarra, long rumored to have been a conduit through whom county services and material flowed out to past and present county officials. Marcelino was everyone's friend if they had the right connections with officials close to the top of the pecking order.
County sources tell El Rrun-Rrun that Ybarra faced an ultimatum of resigning or being let go and he chose to leave on his own.
His departure follows the indictment of Juan Millan Lemus, 63, the leader of the construction maintenance department who worked directly under Ybarra.
Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz released few details about the charges against Lemus when the indictment except to say that Lemus was accused of theft.
Saenz told the Brownsville Herald when the indictment was issued against Lemus in January that the supervisor was accused of taking some county-owned tools.
“He’s accused of taking some tools that belonged to the county. There was a job site at the restitution center and as they’re working at that job site they discovered there were some tools missing,” Saenz said. “And Mr. Lemus was found to have them in his possession.”
Also missing – although she's back again – was JP 2-1 court administrator Sylvia Rodriguez and another clerk. At first, people thought that the pair had left on their own free will but later, when Rodriguez returned, it seems that there was a reconciliation between her and her boss JP Linda Salazar.
"They probably went to the Island and made up," said a county wag. "After they talked about it, she returned."
Sources tell us that when Ybarra was given the ultimatum, he consulted with his lawyer, former Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa. When he failed to give notice of his decision to the county, it was taken as a resignation and he left the county. 
For years, the buzz around the county was that Ybarra and his maintenance crew were used as a personal building force by various public officials who used them to wok on their private homes. However, after an investigation by the Cameron County Sheriff's Dept. there were never any charges filed against him.