The Field Review - Local

City Manager is Suspected of Violating City of Harlingen Ordinance

On or about October 21, 2021, a lawsuit was filed on City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez for actions that, are claimed, to exceed his legal authority.

On or about November 18, 2021, after the deadline to respond, the Interim City Attorney Mark Sossi submitted a reply to the lawsuit on behalf of City Manager Gonzalez.

Typically, this may not be a concern; however, the City of Harlingen Municipal Ordinance precludes the City Attorney from representing City Manager Gonzalez in this cause.

He is precluded because the Municipal Ordinance states that any city official is prohibited to appear on behalf of a private interest.

Once you read the Municipal Ordinance, below, you will see a key phrase highlighted at the bottom of the code:

2) Prohibition against appearances on behalf of private interests.

a. No city official shall represent or appear on behalf of private interests of others before any agency or department of the city, or any city municipal court, board, commission, committee, or city commission concerning any civil or criminal case, administrative hearing, disciplinary action, project, proposal, or matter over which the city official exercises any discretionary authority, either directly or indirectly, nor shall a city official represent any private interest of others in any action or proceeding, civil or criminal, involving the city or any of its employees appearing in an official capacity or as a witness, nor voluntarily participate on behalf of others in any litigation to which the city is a party or any of its employees appearing in an official capacity or as a witness, unless authorized by the city. For example, a city official who is an attorney is prohibited from representing any person in litigation in which a city police officer is, or may be, a witness in his official capacity.

Essentially, the lawsuit filed does nothing but identify peace officers for the City of Harlingen as potential witnesses. It directly names them in the lawsuit; therefore, the City Attorney should not be representing City Manager Gonzalez.

If that is not compelling enough then it should be noted this is a lawsuit related to a duty City Manager Gonzalez has and did not perform; again, making this a lawsuit on Gonzalez and not the City of Harlingen. This concept excludes City of Harlingen representation.

Anyone interested in the documents filed can access them on the Cameron County Public Access Portal as they are publicly displayed and available due to the nature of public concern.