Poteet council elects Cantu to vacant seat, votes to terminate legal counsel

Candace Cantu, right, is sworn into office as the Place 2 council member by City Secretary Kerry McCollough during the July 6 meeting. DIANA GUTHRIE | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

Candace Cantu, right, is sworn into office as the Place 2 council member by City Secretary Kerry McCollough during the July 6 meeting. DIANA GUTHRIE | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

The Poteet City Council elected a new council member at their July 6 meeting. Candace Cantu, a former Poteet council member, was sworn in at 6:51 p.m. to fill in the vacant Place 2 seat. Four candidates in total applied for the seat. The other candidates were Chief Henry Dominguez, Melinda J. Orta and Candace Perez. Orta was unable to attend the meeting due to an accident.

All council members including the Mayor are given packets prior to meetings for review. Despite having the applications, Mayor Denise Sanchez originally acknowledged two of the candidates and was corrected by her fellow council members.

“You turned in an application?” Mayor Sanchez asked Perez. “Oh, I didn’t see that. So now we have three [applicants] here.”

Chief Dominguez was the first candidate to come up and speak. Dominguez is a resident of Poteet and currently serves as the Chief of the Atascosa County Animal Control. He said his experience working as a public servant would help benefit the city and that he could be a reliable resource for the council. Dominguez also added that he’s a big supporter of grants. Cantu spoke next to the council. A former Houston resident, Cantu said she moved back to Poteet after working in Houston because she cares about the city and wants to treat everyone equally as a council member. Perez, a lifelong Poteet resident, rounded out the candidates. Perez mentioned she had no experience serving on a council. She further added that her lack of experience would be beneficial because it would provide a new perspective and wouldn’t come with any bias.

Council member Crystal Bautista motioned to elect Cantu to the council. Council member Jeremy Fernandez seconded Bautista.

When the votes were taken, Mayor Pro Tem Nicholas Sanchez voted against the motion along with councilmember Rick Flores. However, Flores added he was interested in hearing from Dominguez again but wasn’t allowed since the motion had already been made. Flores and Bautista voted in favor of the motion eventually leading to Mayor Sanchez breaking the tie by voting to elect Cantu to the council.

The first agenda item that occured with newly elected council member Cantu was under Old Business, Item A: Discussion/ Possible action on Termination of the Contract for legal counsel and municipal court prosecution services with Davidson Troilo Ream Garza, PC, and setting an effective date.

Flores said that in his three years on the council he has never heard a complaint against the current legal counsel. He stated that they have assisted him in any request he has made so he has nothing but positive things to say about the legal team. Fernandez said the attorney should be available to the council and mayor equally. N. Sanchez asked for examples of these claims and Fernandez could not provide any. The mayor stated there are no examples and to move on.

Legal Counsel Molly Solis, a lifelong resident of Poteet who served with the 81st District Attorney’s Office and with County Attorney Lucinda Vickers office stated it’s been an honor to serve the city of Poteet and would respect whatever decision was made.

“Just because you don’t necessarily agree with the legal advice you’re given doesn’t mean I’m giving you legal advice that is incorrect,” City Attorney Solis said. “You don’t always get what you want when you’re looking at the law. The law is written and we guide you the best we can, for the city of Poteet, not individually.”

Fernandez motioned to terminate Davidson Troilo Ream Garza, PC with a 30- day notice. Cantu in her first vote on council seconded the motion by adding that the change should be effective immediately. However, she changed her second to terminate Solis with a 30-day notice to match the motion. N. Sanchez and Flores voted against the motion but Bautista voted in favor to break the tie and terminate legal counsel.

According to a statement made by Solis in the May Poteet City Council meeting, the only on-going pending litigation that Davidson Troilo Ream Garza, PC is handling for the city is the lawsuit that Mayor Denise Sanchez has filed against the city of Poteet.

When the discussion for appointing a new City Administrator arose, Cantu made a statement saying the city has gone without an administrator in the past. However, Solis pointed out that the city passed an ordinance in 1986 stating that no city council members shall receive such appointment during the term for which he has been elected or for two years after the expiration.

“There have been multiple occasions in the city over the last 20 years, or since that ordinance was passed, that we have gone without an interim city administrator,” Cantu said. “The duties have been done by the mayor and can be done by the mayor until such a time as we can advertise and find someone qualified to do the job.”

Solis followed by saying that breaking your own ordinances is breaking the law. Cantu made the motion to have the mayor take over. Flores responded by saying that they would be breaking the law.

“I think it’s only being enforced now due to who is mayor,” Cantu said. “Sorry it’s my personal opinion. We’re breaking our own law.”

Solis told council that the ordinance states that no council member can serve as the city administrator for a two-year period of time. Cantu withdrew her original motion to leave the spot vacant and search for candidates. Fernandez seconded the motion and the votes favored in leaving the spot open.

Prior to the beginning of the July 6 meeting, Poteet Mayor Denise Sanchez asked if it was going out live. “I don’t want it going live,” she told Solis. Solis stated that it had to go out live because it was on the agenda to do so. Councilman Nick Sanchez pointed out that they had already paid for the system so why not use it. D. Sanchez replied that she would put it on the next agenda, but added, “Mr. Sanchez, I wasn’t speaking to you, so will you keep your opinion to yourself.” That began an evening of criticism from the chair.

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