Update: Rep. Niland has more City Council absences than Rep. Holguin

Strong words at Council during special election vote

EL PASO, Texas - April 30, 2014 Update: During Tuesday's City Council meeting, City Rep. Cortney Niland called out fellow Rep. Eddie Holguin because he was absent.

City Council was discussing the special election to replace Holguin.

ABC-7's I Team asked the City how many City Council meetings Niland and Holguin have missed.

According to the City, Niland has been absent 16 times since she was elected in 2011.

Holguin, in office since 2005, has been absent 13 times.

"This isn't about absences," Niland told ABC-7. "We had to call for a special election because Rep. Holguin resigned from his position in the middle of his term to seek higher office, and now it's going to cost taxpayers thousands of dollars to fill that position."

Holguin said Niland's comments were not only unfounded but backlashed on her.

He added Niland is now backtracking because she's been absent a lot more.

"Next time she makes a belittling comment, she should do her homework and have the right information," Holguin said.

Holguin added he was glad the public can now see how many times city representatives have been absent, pointing out he was not absent until two years into  his term.

April 29, 2014 Story: Lower Valley voters will choose a new City Representative on July 19.

Gov. Rick Perry approved a special election to replace City Rep. Eddie Holguin, who automatically resigned his city seat in December when he announced he'd run for County Judge.

State law allows Holguin to stay in his seat until a replacement is voted in. City Attorney Sylvia Borunda Firth said the City, at the direction of Council, asked the Governor for the emergency election because of impending budget sessions and because Council is in the process of choosing a new City Manager.

Holguin was absent at Tuesday's meeting, prompting a tense exchange between City Rep. Cortney Niland and City Rep. Lily Limon. "The reason we suggested that we need to have this election is because we have a lot of decisions pending. Today is a prime example of it. We have someone who resigned and someone who is not willing to show up to the meetings and when you do that it's very hard to make calls on behalf of your district so therefore we need to get an individual in this position who's committed and who's willing to serve the people," Niland said during the meeting.

Limon immediately responded. "I think that's a very low comment to make. I think Representative Holguin has been present at the vast majority (of meetings.) He rarely takes vacation to miss meetings like these. I think that's a low, cheap shot."

According to the City Clerk, since Holguin announced his bid for County Judge on December 1st, Niland and he have each been absent three times, counting Tuesday's meeting. But Holguin said Niland's been absent more since she first took office. "It's like the pot calling the kettle black," he said. Attendance statistics on both representatives should be ready by Wednesday, Holguin said.

Council approved the election in a 5 to 1 vote. Limon voted against it and Dr. Noe stepped out of the meeting before the vote. Representatives Niland, Larry Romero, Emma Acosta, Ann Lilly and Carl Robinson voted for it.

Initially, the City thought it would also have to hold a city-wide election to replace Municipal Judge Rick Olivo who unsuccessfully also ran for another office. But the City Attorney said she learned the State Constitution allowed council to appoint someone to that position until a regular election, which will save the city money.

"It'll bring substantial savings to the city because the municipal court is a city-wide election and the early estimates we got were as high as $200,000 and to replace the district representative, it's only 19 precincts and we believe the cost will be in the area of $30,000." said Sylvia Borunda Firth.

So far, Navy Veteran Mike Pickett and Water Utility spokeswoman Claudia Ordaz have filed the preliminary paperwork to run for the City Council seat. Potential candidates can begin filing on Wednesday and have until May 19th. Early voting begins July 2nd.

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