Friday, May 5, 2017


By Juan Montoya
It has been brought to our attention that when City of Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez attended this week's meeting of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, he unwillingly formed a quorum of the city commission because three city commissioners sit on that entity's board.

Although Martinez sat in the gallery and city manager Charlie Cabler tried to do the heavy lifting, it is an undisputed fact that he also participated in the presentation and discussion that was generated when Cabler proposed that GBI participate in funding $22 million of the debt toward the construction of a new terminal at the Brownsville-South Padre Island airport.

The Open Meetings act requires that when a quorum of a governing body is present and discusses business, notice must be posted 72 hours ahead of the meeting. Although the GBIC did post its meeting within the required time, the presence of Martinez at the meeting may have violated the law in regards to the meeting of a quorum of the city commision to discuss city business.

Members of the GBIC board include chair (and city commissioner) Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa, commissioners Deborah Portillo and Cesar de Leon, Cameron County Treasurer David Betancourt and member John Cowen.
City Attorney Mark Sossi is its legal counsel.

"Everybody was discussing the proposal, including Martinez commenting from his seat," said a participant.

Cabler should have known better, as well as Martinez, a lawyer and mayor of the city.
GBIC legal counselSossi was also present, but ethically challenged as he has proven to be, it is unlikely he would have raised the issue. After all, when the mayor discussed the city's sale of a half lot adjacent to his office to increase parking and make the lot marketable, he was put in his place by Martinez who told him he had already consulted "a real lawyer."

Sources with the Brownsville Navigation District remember former Cameron County District Attorney Yolanda de Leon once warned board members that they could be indicted if a majority of them met without posting notice to the public.

"Officials have been indicted for violating the Open Meetings Act," he recalled.

The city is after GBIC – and perhaps it sister Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation – to fund the $27 million terminal planned for the airport. The FAA has set aside $5 million toward the planned $108 million in airport improvements. And the city commission under the Martinez administration has gone to the Certificates of Obligation well so often, that issuing t=nay further amount of money using that vehicle would require raising taxes.

COs would be the preferred vehicle, of course, since it does not require asking the voters for permission to issue debt. A bond issue, on the other hand, would require an election. Given the excesses in real estate speculation characteristic of the Martinez bunch, it's an iffy proposition that would probably fail.

Spending its share of the tax receipts on infrastructure is permissible under its charter, but more often than not, the GBIC fund is used to create permanent jobs and is a measure of any project coming before its board for funding. In the case of the terminal, the only jobs created would probably be those workers who work on its construction.

As the case stands, the GBIC and the BCIC may participate in sharing the cost of the new terminal, but skirting the Open Meetings Act with a potential illegal meeting is not the way to go about doing the people's business.


Anonymous said...

So what?!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Once again, proven poor leadership. Why in the world did the City commission conducted a ground -breaking ceremony for a new airport terminal months ago where they knew that there was no funding? Ground-breaking means you have everything in place to include floor plans and are ready to begin inmediately. Someone wanted to looked good and screwed everything up, do we really need another four years of our current elected leaders? I think not. Get out and vote, today is your last chance to make a huge difference.