EDINBURG — Councilman Gilbert Enriquez suspects the council removed him from the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation board because he was asking too many questions about incentives and agreements the EEDC board approved.
On Monday, the Edinburg council met for a five-minute meeting in which members discussed two items: the merger of the Rio Grande Valley’s three metropolitan planning organizations and the appointment of a new EEDC board member.
It took the council 30 seconds to remove Enriquez, with Councilman Jorge Salinas making the motion to replace him with Sonia Enriquez, who is not related to the councilman.
After no discussion and a quick vote, Enriquez asked to speak.
“I was just going to say thank you to you all — mayor may I have the floor,” he asked.
“Mr. Enriquez, we’re going to move on,” Mayor Richard Molina replied.
Enriquez tried to fit in a few more words, but the mayor asked for a motion to adjourn and the meeting ended soon after.
“I just wanted to thank Mr. (Joey) Trevino, Mrs. Nelda Ramirez for all of the hard work they did while I was there as a member and as president, and of course I wanted to thank the council for allowing me the opportunity to be on the EDC, and that was basically it,” Enriquez told The Monitor Tuesday. “But they didn’t give me the opportunity because I guess, I don’t know, maybe they thought something different. I have my suspicions.”
Those suspicions, he said, involve a lack of transparency on the part of the board majority, which also makes up the majority on the council.
“My suspicion is that they just didn’t feel comfortable with me questioning things that were being done, the money that was being spent,” Enriquez said. “I think they don’t like transparency. They don’t want the taxpayer to know exactly where their tax dollars are going.”
When asked to specify which incentives or agreements with which he took issue, he replied, “There’s a lot of issues — a lot of agreements, incentives that I don’t agree with, but again, I don’t have the majority. They pretty much dictate what gets approved and what doesn’t.
“It’s a dictatorship. It’s not a democracy. It revolves around one individual and the other two follow in the steps.”
“That’s a pretty strong word,” EEDC board member Mike Farias said about Enriquez’ reference to a dictatorship. “We all have one equal vote. There’s five individuals, and they all vote for what they believe is in the best interest for the EDC.”
Councilman David Torres, who also sits on the EEDC board, defended his vote to remove Enriquez.
“If anybody was doing that, actually it was him,” Torres said about being a dictator. “Now, if there’s one person running the show, I don’t know about (that). There’s some people who are more involved than others, but that’s their style of serving. I can’t say anything about that.”
Torres accused Enriquez of making “real negative and more pointed attacks,” adding Enriquez deployed a line of questioning only directed at certain vendors.
“I’ve seen a trend where there’s a lot of questioning. I don’t know if it’s for the right reasons or more to cause problems instead of fix problems,” Torres said.
“I’ve seen him attack other vendors or other engineers and it’s a little concerning. I guess you can call it selective prosecution,” he said with a laugh.
Torres also insinuated Enriquez had not disclosed conflicts of interest while serving as EEDC board president.
“There was some concerns that were brought to my attention that he was actually the contractor for some engineers, and while he was president they got selected on the EDC to do some projects,” Torres said. “It just started to raise some red flags in that aspect.”
Enriquez vehemently denied those accusations.
“Absolutely not,” he said when asked if he had failed to disclose conflicts of interest. “I challenge him to prove to me that I have a conflict. I have no contract with anybody that the city or EDC has ever hired and the accusations he’s making, he’s just trying to justify (my removal). And everybody who knows me, knows that I will not (compromise) my integrity, my ethics or my name. So I challenge him to prove it.”
Enriquez welcomed an inquiry.
“By all means go ahead, open up an investigation. Do what you did with Homer Jasso,” he said in reference to a 2017 inquiry the council launched against Jasso Jr., another member of the council’s minority faction. “Go ahead. I have no issue with that.”
Enriquez went a step further and insinuated he holds damaging information against Torres.
“I can prove a lot of things with him and his bail bond business and the city of Edinburg — and even his home health,” he said. “I have the information, and when I’m ready to disseminate it to everyone, I will definitely do that.”
Torres said he is not concerned.
“There’s nothing to worry on that aspect. He can say what he wants,” Torres said. “None of my businesses do business with the city.”
Torres said he also voted to remove Enriquez because he was concerned Enriquez “had grown tight on facebook with Mr. Gus Garcia,” the former EEDC executive director who was fired when the new majority faction came to power.
“That was concerning,” the councilman who is designated as mayor pro tem said, adding Enriquez voted to remove Garcia from the post.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or comment,” Garcia said about Torres’ concern. “It’s ridiculous.”
Enriquez and the mayor are also not on the same page, Torres said.
“Recently they have not been seeing eye to eye, but that’s between them and I can’t speak for them,” Torres said.
They mayor denied the EEDC was being run by one person.
“First of all that’s not true. It’s not being run like a dictatorship. I’ve never been the president of the EDC and Gilbert Enriquez was president for over a year,” he said. “Why all of a sudden that he’s not president is it now being run like a dictatorship?”
If anything, the council is deploying a “good healthy rotation” for the EEDC board, Molina said.
“A lot of the decisions that have been made since we were elected have all been influenced in one way or another by Mr. Enriquez,” he added.
In the end, Torres said, it boiled down to productivity.
“More than anything it was just the fact that we were not accomplishing anything as a team. There was nothing positive. Things were going nowhere,” he said. “It’s nothing personal against him.”
Enriquez said he will continue to ask questions.
“I’m going to hold people accountable just like I want them to hold me accountable. If they don’t allow me to speak, I’ll find other avenues to notify the taxpayer of where their tax dollars are going,” he said.
And as far as advice for the new EEDC board member, he said, “Stay true to your convictions and she’ll be fine — or at least she’ll be fine until the majority realizes she’s a liability not an asset.”