EL PASO, Texas - A teary-eyed Cortney Niland submitted her resignation as District 8 City Representative during Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Niland, in the midst of a divorce, acknowledged she is going through a difficult period and public service is no longer feasible. "Here are the facts: my marriage will soon end and I have sold my home. I will be exploring full time employment opportunities, wherever that might take me, in order to provide for myself and my sons. At the outset of this personal crisis, I had hoped to fulfill my term, but the reality is I need to put my family first," the city representative said.
The city representative also thanked the residents she represented and her colleagues.
"I would like to thank the citizens of District 8 from the bottom of my heart for the honor and privilege of serving them. While no process of debate is ever perfect, I have tried to bring energy, dedication, passion and a problem solving approach to local government," Niland said.
"(Cortney) is very saddened by some of the abuse that her family had taken over the last couple of months and that had a lot to do with it," Mayor Oscar Leeser said, "She told me how she loves her kids and how she loves her family and how the media had destroyed her family."
It was Niland's first meeting after a three-month absence citing her husband's medical issues. Fellow council members excused her absences, meaning she did not face any penalties and continued to draw a salary throughout her absence.
During that period, Niland missed key votes, including a meeting where council failed to have enough votes to override a mayoral veto when council intended to move forward in issuing $44 million in non-voter approved debt.
Niland also missed a meeting when council opted to not hire another company to conduct a study of Downtown El Paso to find another site for the controversial voter-approved arena. Niland represents residents in the Duranguito neighborhood, who would have to be displaced to make way for the project.
Niland was first elected in 2011 to represent District 8, which covers downtown and part of west El Paso.
A vocal proponent of the ballpark, Niland was also a champion of the 2012 Quality of Life bond election.
"Cortney is most proud of spearheading efforts to keep our electric rates low and affordable, helping not only residents but also helping all businesses in our city," reads her biography on her website, CortneyNiland.com.
"I pledge a smooth transition to whomever may follow and I ask, and I really mean this, for understanding, prayer and my family's privacy during this very difficult time," Niland said Tuesday.
The District 8 Rep. said she hoped that by resigning now, the City will be able to include her seat on the ballot for the upcoming election, sparing taxpayers the cost of a special election.
The filing period for the May 2017 election has passed and early voting begins in two weeks.
"We are on a very tight deadline ... We did confirm that as long as the City calls the election by April 25th, that we should be able to fill the vacancy at the same time as the anticipated runoff," City Attorney Silvia Borunda Firth said, "We already prepared for a runoff on June 10th because of all the candidates that are running for office in the mayoral election and other races. We expect there will be a runoff.
Council will be presented with the ordinance during its next meeting so it can call the election, Borunda Firth said.