EL PASO, Texas - Socorro Mayor Trini Lopez announced Sunday night he was resigning and, according to him, his decision is rooted to election law.
Mayor Pro-Tem Mary Garcia doesn't buy Lopez's reasoning. She said she believes his resignation is a result of a special meeting she and two other city councilors have called for Wednesday.
That meeting will focus on Lopez. "He can say whatever he wants as far as his departure goes," said Garcia. "As far as I'm concerned, it's the investigation that he is undergoing right now."
Garcia said the meeting will center on Lopez's purchase of city property. She wouldn't discuss specifics, but said more would be revealed at the special meeting Wednesday.
Three of the agenda items for Wednesday's meeting deal with Lopez directly.
They have to do with his "financial interest in a contract" with Socorro, "collection of monies owed to the city,"and "appropriate sanctions."
Lopez said he purchased a city vehicle at a non-city auction, but denies any wrongdoing.
Garcia wouldn't comment on whether that was the issue being discussed on Wednesday.
"I don't pay too much attention to the council, they have no credibility," said Lopez. "They are in their own hot situation." When Lopez resigned his position power shifted to Garcia.
She and three others from the City of Socorro are under investigation, according to past stories reported on by ABC-7.
Earlier this year items were removed from Socorro City Hall by El Paso County Sheriff's deputies.
Asked on Monday about the investigation Sheriff Richard Wiles said via text message "We have investigations occurring regarding city officials in Socorro including city council members, but unfortunately because they are still in the investigation stage, I am not at liberty to discuss them at this time."
Lopez may be under investigation by the City of Socorro, but he said it had nothing to do with his decision to resign.
According to him, he is reacting to a letter sent by State Sen. Jose Rodriguez back in August. On Dec. 12, 2011 the City of Socorro passed an ordinance to change the city charter.
That ordinance effectively increased the term length of city council members from three years to four, changed the election dates for the mayor and two council members from May 2012 to Nov. 2013, and changed the election dates for three other council members from May 2013 to Nov. 2014.
Rodriguez said he thinks two things need to occur in order to implement that ordinance. First, the city must get approval from the Department of Justice. Second, the city needs to hold a vote to allow those changes.
Rodriguez said he has been reaching out to the city since before August, but has yet to hear anything.
"It is puzzling to me why they wouldn't follow the advice of the chief election office of the state," said Rodriguez, pointing out that he is not the only person who has taken issue with the city's stance.
Rodriguez referred to the City of Socorro as going out on a limb in its interpretation of Senate Bill 100, a bill recently passed that allowed elections to be moved from May of this year to November.
Rodriguez believes that if the city is wrong, and legal action is taken, that the city's actions taken by the current council could be voided in the future and may not hold any legal weight.
Meanwhile, the City of Socorro is dealing with yet another major political blow. Lopez was the replacement for Willie Gandara Sr. who left office following legal problems that led to an indictment.
Asked whether Socorro citizens should question their public officials, Garcia said "no." "Mr. Gandara was indicted. He is an individual," said Garcia. "Mr. Lopez is also an individual. I don't believe that should reflect on the rest of us."
Lopez said he will not attend the meeting because his mother-in-law died on Friday morning and that he would be busy tending to his family.