Hidalgo Co: $29,000 pay raise for Executive Officer raises questions

Edinburg – Hidalgo County Executive Officer, Valde Guerra will being enjoying a 22% increase in salary if Hidalgo County Commissioners approve the Fiscal Year 2018 budget next week. The increase will bring Mr. Guerra’s total compensation to around $160,000 annually, which would be on par with other county governments of similar size and scope, this according to Precinct 2 Commissioner Eddie Cantu who spoke with the McAllen Monitor.

Guerra has been in the services of Hidalgo County for the past 30 years, ultimately being appointed to Executive Officer in 2007. According to Executive Officer profile on the Hidalgo County website, Guerra’s duties include:

  • Oversee and provide management direction to all County departments under the direct control of the Court.
  • Ensure to the Court that all departments are managed and administered in an efficient and cost-effective manner
  • Support the overall operations of the County
  • Provide necessary services to the Hidalgo County citizens and/or to County departments and employees
Valde Guerra, Hidalgo County Executive Officer

Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia, Hidalgo Commissioners, nor Mr Guerra himself have demonstrated what additional duties Mr. Guerra would assume to justify a 22 percent increase, nor have they disclosed any performance evaluation reports to the public that would justify an increase.

It didn’t take long for Hidalgo County citizens to raise their concerns with Mr. Guerra’s raise.  The optics couldn’t come at worse time considering the cost of the new county courthouse is under scrutiny, and questions were raised on whether Hidalgo County really needed to procure a 5.4 million dollar voting machine replacement.

Complicating matters further is the uncertainty the federal 2018 budget will have on municiple and county governments, particular in housing and urban development, much in which the county has some oversight. Reduction or elimination of these grants could reduce employment, and place additional burden on Hidalgo County’s very own general fund if the county is to cover some of the cost.

Citizens also pointed out that Mr. Guerra’s increase amounted to an annual salary of various entry level staff positions, and could be better spent in aquiring additional support in numerous departments. Taking a look at the employement section of the county website shows a few positions where $28,943 increase is nearly the starting annual salary for some staff positions.

That being the case, did the Executive Office, budget office, and Commissioners take the time needed to determine whether essential support staff was urgent and necessary before approving the raise? Increase in personnel charges must be sustainable, and it’s $29,000 the county will not have for additional personnel or operating cost.  This especially at a time where unemployment rates in the Rio Grande Valley are running at higher percentages than other major metro areas.

Once again Commissioner Eddie Cantu justified Mr. Guerra’s increase by saying it maintains parity with other counties. However, what Mr. Cantu fails to understand is just because something is wasteful in other counties, doesn’t mean it has to be wasteful in ours.

UPDATE: The annual cost of living adjustment (budget permitting) for employees is 3 percent.

Edinburg Mayor and ECISD Board member clash over park project

Edinburg – Followers of both Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia and ECISD School Board member Miguel “Mike” Farias were treated to a tense but “respectful” exchange over the fate of an uncompleted park project.  Despite the respectful pleasantries peppered in their respective post, both sides accused the other of political posturing.

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2017 McAllen mayoral race had a 42 percent drop in turnout since 1997

Othal Brand Sr’s 1997 runner-up vote totals were greater than Jim Darling’s winning totals in 2013 and 2017.

McAllen – Around 88 percent of eligible registered McAllen voters were not moved to vote in last Saturdays mayoral election, according to the unofficial election results provided by the City Secretaries Office.  Ultimately, their passiveness proved costly to challenger Othal Brand Jr, who had spent nearly two times as much as the Darling campaign, in effort to convince McAllen voters to elect him over incumbent Jim Darling.  Darling was declared the winner of the highly contested race with a comfortable margin of 4,409 votes to Brand’s 3061 tally.  While other traditional media outlets were quick to congratulate voters that turned out, a lingering question remained.  How could a city of over 134,000, with approximately 66,000 registered voters, have a major election decided by a very few?  Since 1997, the City of McAllen as seen a sharp decline in voter turnout for local races.

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UTRGV Police to uphold SB 4 law

Edinburg – UTRGV campus police may uphold the newly signed SB 4 bill, which will take effect September 1st. Recently, questions arose as to what University law enforcement will do in regards to the verification of someones immigration status. Under the SB 4 bill, law enforcement may face disbarment of state funding if they do not comply with the anti-sanctuary city law.

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Hidalgo Co Officials Received Political Contributions from FBI Raided Engineering Firm

Contributions amounted to over $25,000 with Hidalgo Co Judge Ramon Garcia, and Commissioner Joseph Palacios as primary benefactors.

Edinburg – Yesterday, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FB) raided the McAllen office of a Houston based engineering firm. Around noon, agents stormed the Dannenbaum Engineering office, located on 1109 W. Nolan Ave.  Agents were seen retrieving dozens of retention boxes from the building and loading them up in FBI vehicles. Information as to what specifically they were looking for was limited.  Dannenbaum Engineering was involved with some high profile projects in Hidalgo County, specifically with the planning of the border-wall levee project in Granjeno, and were front-runners to secure the construction job for the proposed new courthouse in Edinburg.  Since 2009, representatives of Dannenbaum Engineering have contributed approximately $25,000 to Hidalgo County officials, with Hidalgo Co Judge Ramon Garcia, and Commissioner Joseph Palacios as primary benefactors.


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McAllen Engineering firm raided by FBI is leading contender for proposed Courthouse project.

McAllen – The local offices of Dannenbaum Engineering Corporation was raided by the FBI today, however the FBI is remaining silent as to what they’re looking for.  The office, located on 1109 Nolana Loop was one of several offices raided by the FBI throughout the state.  When pressed by CBS 4 News, FBI Spokesperson, Michelle Lee released this statement:

Per your request, I can confirm the FBI is lawfully present at the location you referenced (Nolana Loop in McAllen) conducting a law enforcement activity. While we can’t discuss the nature of the work we are doing, there is no public safety threat.

No arrests have been made. I can’t comment any further since it remains an ongoing matter.

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Hate messages at UTRGV could be an instance of Fake Hate

Incidents of false hate crime reports have occurred throughout the U.S. since the election of Donald Trump

Edinburg – Racial slurs left in the female restroom have left students shaken and left UTRGV authorities scrambling to find the individual(s) responsible for it.

The incident occurred April 10, and the offensive material was left in the first floor female restroom in the Mathematics & General Classrooms Building. 

 Staff and students were sent the following alert from UTRGV Police.

 

 

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LETTERS: Texas Bathroom Bill SB6

Senate Bill 6 has been forwarded to Texas Senate to be decided on.  The “bathroom bill” as it’s colloquially referred, would limit individuals to use the bathroom of his/her biological origin.  Naturally, this was seen as an anti-LGBT position, and a counter-protest has emerged.  I have written about my personal position regarding gender neutral public bathrooms, specifically regarding the law passed in North Carolina.  Evidence was provided that illustrated that abuses and compromising situations were occurring in result of troubled individuals abusing gender neutral public restrooms.   Continue reading “LETTERS: Texas Bathroom Bill SB6”

Breaking: Suspected Arrested for string of UTRGV Burglaries

Edinburg – Authorities have just apprehended a suspect in connection with a slew of weekend burglaries that first occurred on April 2nd at UTRGV’s College of Education Building. Continue reading “Breaking: Suspected Arrested for string of UTRGV Burglaries”

Bomb Threat Forces Hidalgo Co Courthouse Evacuation

Suspicious individuals seen documenting response.

Edinburg – Staff and visitors of Hidalgo Co Courthouse were evacuated today, after a call was placed informing officials that 4 explosive packages were being sent to the Elections Department.  Authorities from multiple agencies, including agents in full tactical gear, converged on the scene to secure the area and assist with evacuation.   Continue reading “Bomb Threat Forces Hidalgo Co Courthouse Evacuation”