The Peñitas City Council had something to discuss on Monday.
Heavy trucks had damaged Tom Gill Road. The sewage system had problems, but the parts needed for Peñitas to make the repairs are out of stock. And the people on the south side of town had asked the city council to install speed bumps.
Mayor Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez, however, did not show up.
“This guy is the mayor. He’s supposed to represent everyone here,” said Alma Ramirez, 65, a retired teacher who lives across the street from Rigo Lopez. “Now he’s hiding somewhere.”
On June 13, a week before the city council meeting, the FBI arrested Rigo Lopez for federal larceny.
The indictment against Rigo Lopez accused him of bribing an employee of the La Joya Independent School District to approve purchases from Xizaka LLC, a company he owned.
“Defendant gave money to an employee of LJISD with the intention of influencing and rewarding said employee for approving LJISD purchases totaling approximately $70,010.00 from Xizaka, LLC, a business entity owned by the defendant,” according to the indictment.
Rigo Lopez has pleaded not guilty.
Xizaka LLC Sold sports and turf equipment at La Joya ISD in 2018, according to documents released under the Texas Public Information Act. The “Ship to Information” listed Councilman Alex Guajardo – a La Joya ISD administrator – as the point of contact.
Guajardo resigned from the city council and from La Joya ISD after he admitted bribing school board members and laundering money.
“We trusted them. We were convinced that these people were doing the right thing. And they weren’t,” said Ramirez, who showed up Monday to attend the city council meeting. “So it’s a big disappointment. They embarrassed our town. And we have had no explanation of what happened. No public statement from any of them.
Councilman Ramiro Loya, who chaired the meeting because the mayor failed to show up, declined to comment.
“Sir, at this time I have no comments. Right now,” Loya said. “Probably, later you can call us. Not immediately.”
Whether or not Rigo Lopez plans to quit is unclear.
On June 14, when Rigo Lopez appeared in court, a federal prosecutor told U.S. Investigative Judge Nadia S. Medrano that people employed by the city of Peñitas could be witnesses or co-defendants in the case.
“But in light of what he said regarding plans for his position, Your Honor, that may be a moot question,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto “Bobby” Lopez Jr. said.
Edinburgh barrister Tony Torres, who represents Rigo Lopez, did not respond to a request for comment.
State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a native of Peñitas, said Rigo Lopez should step down.
“The town hall belongs to the people, not to Rigo Lopez the person. He is elected and holds the office in trust of voters,” Hinojosa said. “And he broke that trust.”