SOCORRO, Texas - Socorro City Council voted Thursday night to remove Mayor Gloria Rodriguez, leaving taxpayers with no choice but to pay for a special election.
Rodriguez was voted into office just four months ago, when more than 2,400 Socorro residents cast a ballot for her. She beat candidate Jesus Ruiz by more than 800 votes.
But it took the vote of just four council members, voting 4-0, to remove her from office for allegedly using city funds to pay for an attorney.
"I believe that they voted me out illegally," Rodriguez told ABC-7 Friday as she prepared to turn in her city-issued cell phone at the Socorro City offices on Horizon Road.
Rodriguez allegedly used city funds to pay for an attorney, against the rules of the city charter, when she was called as a witness after former Socorro Mayor Jesse Gandara and other tried to extend their terms illegally back in 2013.
"I was just was a witness," Rodriguez said. "I was never charged with anything."
Rodriguez has obtained the services of top El Paso defense attorney Jim Darnell.
"This was a railroad job," Darnell said. "It's embarrassing. As a citizen of El Paso County, I'm embarrassed."
Socorro City Rep. Yvonne Colon-Villalobos pushed for Rodriguez's removal.
"I'm just a citizen that was tired of the corruption," Colon-Villalobos said. "It's about being transparent and doing the right thing, simply. "
Rodriguez accused Socorro City Rep. Maria Reyes of having a personal vendetta against her.
"Yes it's personal," Reyes told ABC-7. "But it's personal against the people of Socorro, the taxpayers of Socorro."
"She has been removed," Socorro City Manager Adriana Rodarte said of Rodriguez. "Now our Mayor Pro-Tem Rene Rodriguez will sit as our Mayor until we go into a special election."
And that special election is expected, according to Socorro's city manager, to cost the taxpayers of Socorro $23,000.
"There's so much need in our city that every penny counts," Rodarte said.
Socorro taxpayers agreed.
"That's a lot of money," Socorro resident Maria Bandu told ABC-7.
Added Socorro resident Alma Velasquez: "It sucks."
The amount in question allegedly used for Rodriguez's attorney is $3,000 to $4,000, according to Darnell.
In addition to the cost of a special election, Socorro taxpayers may also have to pay for legal bills. Darnell said he plans to push for "review and reversal" in a Texas court.