VON ORMY— Von Ormy voters head to the polls November 3 to vote on a proposition to change the city to a Type C City. The proposal was placed on the ballot by a petition of eighty-two registered voters. If passed, the city structure will change from a Mayor and five Aldermen to a Mayor and two City Commissioners.
Proponents of the proposition are seeking to remove three indicted City Councilmembers and end the gridlock and infighting that has plagued the City since the May 2015 election. Passage of the proposition will replace the City Council with a City Commission.
The election for City Commissioners is on the same November 3rd ballot. If the change is approved by voters, the newly elected City Commissioners will replace the City Council this November.
The office of Mayor is unaffected by a change in city type and current Mayor Trina Reyes will remain in office regardless of the outcome.
If the proposition fails, the city’s structure will remain as it is and the current City Council will remain in office.
Supporters of the change told the Star that they believe the city needs a change in leadership on the Council. They feel that political infighting has become so intense that there is little hope of anything being accomplished unless a change in personalities is achieved. Opponents have described that the proposition is a political power grab by Mayor Reyes.
The proposition is being placed before voters due to a petition that was filed with the city signed by 82 registered voters. The Texas Local Government Code allows voters to request a change in the type of city government by filing a petition with over 10% of the registered voters of the city. An average Von Ormy City election brings 140—150 voters to the polls. If properly filed, state law requires the Mayor to order an election on the question of changing the type of city.
Mayor Reyes has publically supported the measure and is among the 82 signers of the petition, but she is not the lone elected official to have signed. Councilwomen, Sally Martinez and Deborah Ivy also signed the petition, as did nearly all of the City’s former elected officials.
Supporters have also cited a dramatic increase in city spending since May 2015 as a reason to replace the City Council at this time. Among the greatest increases in city spending has been City Attorney fees. In a 3 to 2 vote, Goede, Aguilar and Hernandez hired Clarissa Rodriguez, as City Attorney at double the rate of the prior City Attorney. Rodriguez had represented the three Councilwomen in prior civil lawsuits. Since hiring Rodriguez the City’s bills for legal services have averaged near $10,000 a month, a dramatic increase that quickly consumed the $25,000 annual budget allowed for legal services. Legal fees were largely for calls and emails to the City Attorney on matters of political infighting.
The issue of legal fees has been contentious on the Council. Mayor Reyes has called for discretion in the use of legal services and challenged the invoices and the intentional overuse of the city attorney for political advise. City Attorney Clarissa Rodriguez recently resigned her position.
Von Ormy Councilwomen Jacqueline Goede, Carmina Aguilar and Verna Hernandez were indicted by a Bexar County Grand Jury in May on violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act. The case is still pending in the 144th District Court.