Pictured: The mayor's empty seat at Monday's council meeting said it all. Photo by CHRISTOPHER MAHER
Council unanimous: Saenz-Lopez needs to go
Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal
With criminal and civil proceedings against Alice Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez currently pending in the courts, the Alice City Council passed a "no confidence" vote on the mayor Monday and formally asked for her resignation.
Mayor Pro-tem Juan Rodriguez Jr. and council members Dorella Elizondo, Shane Valverde and Leo Escobar all voted in favor of the "no-confidence" motion and signed a letter asking for the mayor's resignation during a special called council meeting Monday.
Saenz-Lopez did not attend Monday's council meeting and has repeatedly said she will not voluntarily leave office.
She is currently facing a lawsuit in civil court and two felony charges in criminal court related to the ongoing "Puddles" controversy, as well as a possible recall.
Council member Elizondo said Monday the "no confidence" vote was symbolic, as the city charter does not give the council authority to remove the mayor from office. The purpose of the vote, however, was to let citizens know that the council does not condone her actions.
"The council is simply stating that at this time we are not happy with the performance of the mayor. We do not feel she is providing the leadership necessary for the city to move forward and has led the city in a way that is not beneficial for all of us to work," Elizondo said. "At this point all we can do is request her resignation and hope that in the best interest of the city and in the best interest of what's right for our constituents she will resign."
Council member Escobar read aloud an open letter to the mayor, signed by all of the council members, requesting her resignation.
"As you are aware, the dog incident in which you are presently involved in has brought a great deal of discredit and shame to the council members, city employees, and most importantly our great City of Alice and its residents. The far-reaching media coverage being disseminated as a result of this incident has also created mistrust towards this municipal administration, overwhelming negative attitude toward this city's elected officials. Due to this occurrence, it has affected our ability to properly and effectively carry out our duties as the city's elected governing body," the letter stated. "It is our sincere thoughts that we can no longer be silent in this matter and ignore the wishes of the citizens by which we have been elected to serve; therefore, it is the consensus of the Alice City Council that you, Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez, possess a vote of no confidence from said council. Collectively, as Alice City Council, we firmly request that you resign as mayor effective immediately. Your resignation is in the best interest of our beloved City of Alice and its citizens."
As Escobar finished reading the letter, the audience of more than 50 local residents burst into applause.
Alicia Cavazos, the grandmother of the children who originally owned Puddles, said she was pleased with the council's vote following Monday's meeting, although the family had hoped to resolve the issue a long time ago.
"It's like now they're all heading in the right direction," Cavazos said. "We never intended for it to go this far, we only wanted the dog back."
Although the council has no authority to remove the mayor from office, Cavazos is one of several people who have received a recall petition for the mayor, and she said the organizers of the petition expect to have the necessary signatures in the next few weeks.