New Edcouch attorney requests dismissal of residency-related appeal

In a reversal of course, the new attorney for the city of Edcouch seeks to halt legal action attempting to prevent an alderman from holding office.

The former attorney for the city of Edcouch appealed a judge’s order issued last month that allowed the alderman to assume office despite an allegation he lives in Elsa. The city’s current attorney Orlando Jimenez, however, filed documentation Friday requesting the appeal filed by his predecessor, Javier Villalobos, be dismissed.

The appeal centers around Alderman Joel Segura, who voters elected in early November, along with his entire “United for the Community” slate composed of Aldermen Rene Flores and Lorenzo “Lencho” Cabrera. In October, the city administration at that time, under the direction of interim City Manager Eddy Gonzalez, sent Segura a letter claiming he did not live in Edcouch and was ineligible to serve as an alderman.

Segura, who unseated Alderwoman Esmeralda Cabrera, sued the city after the election to assume his role as an alderman.

Following testimony about Segura’s residency at a hearing in late November, a visiting state district court judge issued a permanent injunction, blocking the city from interfering with Segura’s alderman duties and allowing him to hold the seat.

At the Dec. 6 meeting following the hearing, the board of aldermen, now controlled by the newly elected slate, voted to replace both Villalobos, the city attorney, and the interim city manager.

Villalobos, however, appealed the judge’s order with the 13th Court of Appeals the day the board voted to fire him.

Jimenez said his predecessor, Villalobos, did not have the authority to file the appeal but did so anyway.

Villalobos contends he was still acting as the city’s attorney when he filed the appeal.

“I’m authorized to defend the city, and that’s what we were doing,” Villalobos said, noting the appeal hit a roadblock since the board’s majority did not want to proceed with the appeal intended to remove Segura as alderman.

Villalobos, who represented Edcouch during the November hearing, said he is untroubled by word that the board of aldermen’s new majority wanted to file a grievance against him with the State Bar of Texas for filing the appeal without their approval.

“I was defending the city,” Villalobos said. “I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do.”

Meanwhile, Jimenez believes his predecessor should not have filed the appeal without the board’s approval.

“It’s not a big community, so every little penny is important,” he said of the cost incurred due to litigation. “I don’t do anything without the governing body’s authority.”

Jimenez filed the motion to dismiss the appeal Friday, following a vote by the board to do so.

“The city of Edcouch is dismissing this action because it never authorized this appeal,” Jimenez wrote in the notice of dismissal submitted to the 13th Court of Appeals. “This action was brought by the previous city attorney, Javier Villalobos, without the authority or permission of the governing body.”

Villalobos still maintains Segura is not a resident of Edcouch, and therefore is not qualified to serve as an alderman.

“It’s just a shame that they are allowing somebody who isn’t qualified to serve,” he said.

In order for Villalobos’ appeal to be dismissed, the 13th Court of Appeals would have to approve the request by the current city attorney under the direction of the recently elected board.