2014-04-02 / Front Page

Commissioners debate hiring Raul Flores, for special project

BY TONY VINDELL
Reporter

Will the Willacy County Commissioners’ Court award a contract to an engineer who is already on the county payroll?

Raul Flores, of Flores Engineers Inc., was one of five firms vying to be in charge of the proposed special events and multipurpose complex the county wants to build on land bought along Texas Highway 186.

The other company is Corpus Christi-based Naismith Engineering Inc.

Flores and Naismith scored the most points.

Flores is on the county payroll not as an employee but under contract and he gets paid $7,000 a month as county engineer.

That sparked a debate during Thursday’s meeting of the commissioners after Precinct 1 Commissioner Eliberto “Beto” Guerra made a motion to award the contract to Naismith based on a scoring system tabulated by a committee and one knew who the members are.

No one seconded Guerra’s motion, and Precinct 2 Commissioner Noe Loya suggested giving the contract to Flores even though he is the county engineer.

“You said before it was a conflict of interest,” Guerra told Loya.

“That isn’t true,” Loya replied. “Show me the minutes.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Fred Serrato said he wants to know who the members of the selection committee are because he wasn’t told a thing about it.

Edward Gonzalez, the county’s grant writer, is a member of the committee along with Guerra, Hugo Leyva, the county’s elections administrator and Cassadra Cantu, the secretary for Guerra and Precinct 4 Commissioner Dora Perez.

Gonzalez said they picked the top two companies out of five that scored the highest based on a point system that includes their job experience and performance.

County Judge John F. Gonzales Jr., who is a regular visitor at Flores’ place at Port Mansfield, said he did not know Flores submitted a letter to the county for the complex project.

Flores said he considers himself a local, has worked in park projects in McAllen and has partnered with Milnet Architect of McAllen.

After several minutes of debating the ethicality of hiring Flores, the commissioner tabled the item to get a clarification.

Guerra said the fact that Flores is getting paid by the county and now wants to do a separate project bothers him.

He then asked the district attorney, Bernard Ammerman, to look into it and provide an opinion on the matter.

Flores, contacted after the meeting, said he has done other jobs for the county like in Lasara.

His contract with the county calls for reviewing all building permits, enforcing all FEMA laws and regulations, subdivision laws as well as other state requirements.

In other matters, the commissioners set a spending cap of $2,500 for certain elected officials as required by the socalled lame duck statute.

Gonzales said he was making a motion to suspend a previous decision that set a $250 spending cap, saying he has some projects, such as an old carpet in the administrative building, to take care of.

Ammerman said the statute applies to expenses outside what has been budgeted already.

Loya said he would like to leave the spending cap at $250.

“If I need caliche to fix a road and I don’t have the money,” he said, “I won’t do it.”

The commissioners voted to appoint Estrada Hinojosa & Co. as the county financial advisor of record.

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