The lawsuit filed by former Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas against current Mayor Armando O’Caña will be heard by a judge with connections to the city.
The election contest, which Salinas filed Wednesday challenging the results of the June runoff, has landed in the 93rd state district court which is currently being presided over by Jaime Tijerina, the former Mission deputy city attorney.
Tijerina resigned from the city shortly before Gov. Greg Abbott appointed him to the court last month.
O’Caña pointed out the judge’s connection to the city on Thursday when reached for comment on the lawsuit.
“What a coincidence,” said O’Caña, who added he would be requesting that Tijerina recuse himself from the case.
However, assignment of cases are supposed to be coincidental, according to the Hidalgo County District Clerk’s office which said cases are assigned to courts at random through an “electronic wheel.”
The office also said their IT division has controls to verify whether there’s been any tampering with the “randomization of the assignments.”
Though O’Caña viewed Tijerina’s assignment to the case as a potential conflict of interest, Tijerina pointed out that Mission has a council-manager form of government.
“So I wasn’t appointed by the council, I was hired by the city manager,” he said. “With regard to that, I don’t believe there’s a conflict.”
Tijerina wouldn’t comment on whether he might recuse himself except to say he would “let that play out however it’s going to play out.”
In the lawsuit, Salinas accuses there was “a systematic and flagrant scheme to cast illegal votes to elect Mayor O’Caña.”
Salinas alleges at least 158 “illegal voters” were allowed to cast ballots in the runoff, the results of which ended his 20-year tenure as the city mayor by 157 votes.
Shortly after his defeat, Salinas said he believed O’Caña’s campaign used questionable, possibly even illegal, methods to secure more votes but would not take action because he wasn’t a “sore loser.”
“I’m going to accept the results even though there’s a big question how those votes were recruited,” he told The Monitor in June. “And that’s fine with me.”
Salinas did not return a request for comment Thursday.
The lawsuit also questions O’Caña’s residency, an issue that came up during the campaign, accusing him of residing outside the city limits on Shuerbach Road.
O’Caña has maintained he lives within the city limits, off of Greenlawn Street.
“The allegations are all false,” O’Caña said Thursday. “Again, I slept last night at 927 Greenlawn yesterday; I slept at 927 Greenlawn from Monday through Thursday.”
He said he has not yet hired an attorney to represent him in the lawsuit and would reserve further comment until he had been served.
“Right now we’re looking at all options,” he said.