Corpus Christi City Council District 3 candidate Roland Barrera will be on the runoff ballot on Dec. 18.
Judge Benjamin Euresti Jr., a visiting judge from Brownsville, ruled this morning that Barerra’s failure to file personal finance information by the September deadline does not disqualify him from the election.
Eric Cantu, Barrera’s opponent in the District 3 race filed an injunction last week asking for Barrera’s name to be removed from the ballot.
During this morning’s hearing, Cantu’s attorney Jeff Lehrman, told the judge they were concerned because Barrera, who’s run for public office twice, didn’t file his financial statements because of his ties with the Regional Transportation Authority.
Barrera is a former R.T.A. Member and remains as a consultant for the agency.
“As a city council member if elected, he would have the opportunity to appoint board members to that governing body,” Lehrman said. “So, we think, importantly, there is a conflict here that does deserve consideration for potential ethical issues with Mr. Barrera’s continued nomination and candidacy for city council.”
During a Nov. 16 interview with KRIS 6 News, Barrera acknowledged the mistake and said he turned in the missing paperwork after it was brought to his attention following the Nov. 6 election.
“The ethics forms have a degree of financial information, much more comprehensive,” Barrera said. “So I just confused the two. There were two reports we had to file.”
During the hearing, Barrera’s attorney John Bell stated state law has legal remedies for candidates who fail to file their financial forms.
“There’s both a civil remedy and a criminal remedy under the Texas Government Code, Local Government Code,” Bell said. “You can be fined if you failed to find your financial statement on time and you can also be subject to a civil penalty but neither one of those remedies provide for removal by you for a place on the ballot.”
Bell mentioned Roland Gaona, who passed away before the election. He pointed out Gaona’s name wasn’t removed.
“There’s no basis anywhere in the law for ruling a candidate ineligible after the election has already been conducted and we’re getting ready for a runoff election,” Bell added.
Alissa Adkins, represented the City of Corpus Christi and City Secretary Rebecca Huerta. She argued that the city could not remove Barrera from the ballot.
“The form that apparently was not filed was just the form required by the city ordinance itself, does not have an enforcement provision and it certainly does not have an enforcement provision that says if you don’t file a form, you are off the ballot,” Adkins argued.
In his decision, Euresti ruled because there were remedies to this situation, Barrera’s name would remain on the ballot.
Both candidates were happy with the ruling.
“I’m happy the judge ruled the way he did. I’m glad now that we can get back to business to take care of the issues basically for the people of District 3,” Barrera said. “You know we have to face the issues of obviously addressing our streets, public safety and working together to hire a good city manager.”
Cantu declared the ruling as a personal victory.
“We knew we were going to get denied,” he said. “However, we wanted to bring it to the people’s attention that the reason he didn’t file a financial statement was because he was hiding monies from the R.T.A. to the public.
“This is the beginning of the victory because I am going to stop the corruption.That’s what I want. District 3 deserves better.”
Cantu added he respected the judge’s decision but he felt compelled to hold Barrera accountable.
“These financial statements are very critical because it tells you who they’re in bed with period. And him not filing this report, for 62 days, he was hiding something from the voters. I strongly believe District 3 deserves better.”
He also felt he had to take this matter to court.
“We had to do this because we couldn’t get any answers from the city attorney,” Cantu said. “The city attorney closed their door on us. They didn’t want to respond to our calls and emails. We had to get a judge’s opinion and that’s what we did.
“Like I said, I respect the decision. This is a victory for us. This is a victory for District 3 because we’re going to fight the corruption of the city.”
Early voting in the runoff election will begin on Dec. 8. Election Day is Tuesday, Dec. 18.