The Devine City Council appointed Rufino Vega to the vacant District 1 seat during an Emergency meeting held at 3:00 pm last Friday, March 27.
The District 1 seat had been empty since former Councilman David Valdez submitted a resignation letter in November 2019.
Council also declined to postpone the general election currently set for May 2, though the issue has since been added to the agenda of a Special meeting scheduled for this Thursday, April 2.
District 1 seat
Mayor Cory Thompson said Council decided to appoint Vega because he was running unopposed.
“Nobody signed up to run against Mr. Vega in the District 1 vacancy, and being that we are currently, through State laws, having issues with getting meetings because we have to have four people to make a quorum for a Special meeting, we’ve deemed it necessary to go ahead and fill that vacancy so we can continue with normal City items and normal City work that we have to do, and not continue to have problems with the State regulations and codes,” Thompson said.
A motion by District 3 Councilman David Espinosa and District 2 Councilman Steve Lopez to appoint Vega to the seat passed 4-0 with the support of District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall and Valdez, who voted by phone in his role as a holdover officer.
Article XVI, Section 17, of the Texas Constitution states that an officer continues to perform the duties of office until their successor is sworn in.
A proclamation issued by Governor Greg Abbott on March 18 granted political subdivisions the ability to push scheduled elections from May until November in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proclamation doesn’t require that elections be moved.
“Y’all don’t even have to act on it if y’all want to leave it at May,” Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez said.
Thompson said that some political districts in the county have been forced to postpone elections because they use county voting machines, while Devine has its own.
“We are not reliant on what the county does to affect what we do here at the City of Devine,” Thompson said.
Thompson said Emergency Management Coordinator Rob Flores had run through an example of what the City Hall lobby would look like during voting periods leading up to a May 2 election.
“I would recommend if we do that, of course we still need to abide by the State rules of no more than ten people in the room here, which is what we’re doing right now,” Thompson said. “And that includes everybody. That includes who we have here from the City, who we have from the actual polling people, as well as the actual people who are voting.
One of the concerns about moving the election to November is the City would have to provide ballots and poll watchers at every central voting location in Medina County.
“For lack of a better way of saying it, we’re going to have to reeducate everybody and make them realize [voting] is no longer at City Hall, you’ve now got to go to different locations,” Thompson said.
Espinosa suggested sticking with the May election date unless told otherwise from a higher authority, like the county or the state.
Randall agreed, pointing out that she and Espinosa are both running for reelection, and that the winners of the District 5 and mayoral races will have to run again in May 2021 because she and Thompson were appointed to their positions.
“And District 4, if we waited until November, has no representation until November unless we appoint somebody,” Randall added. “But then who do you appoint? There’s four people running.”
Richard Covarrubia Jr., Charles Guzman, Jesus E. Hernandez, and Kathy Lawler all filed for the District 4 seat, which was vacated by former Councilwoman Jennifer Schott in January.
An Espinosa-Randall motion to leave the election on its current date of May 2 unless forced to move it passed 4-0.
By Marly Davis