Mercedes names former Brownsville city attorney as new legal counsel

The Mercedes City Commission named former city of Brownsville’s longtime attorney Mark Sossi as its new legal counsel on Tuesday.

The city issued request for qualifications for a new attorney following the resignation of Juan Molina, who worked in Mercedes for 14 years. Molina said he resigned to focus on “other business ventures” as well as continue with his Weslaco-based law firm.

Sossi, who identified himself in front of commissioners as part of the Brownsville-based Troiani & Sossi Law Firm, said the firm was started “specifically representing governmental entities.”

Sossi currently serves as city attorney for San Benito and handles civil service negotiations for the city of Mission.

“It’s very inspiring and very motivating to be part of projects,” Sossi said, noting he is “very thankful” to the Mercedes City Commission for the opportunity.

Sossi, who’s been an attorney for 34 years, and his law partner Anthony Troiani will attend Mercedes City Commission meetings and ensure the city is complying with the Texas Open Meetings Act as well as the Texas Public Information Act. They will also provide legal guidance when the city commission is in executive session.

“We like to work extremely closely with the cities — we want to be your partner, we want to work with you … proactively not reactively,” Sossi told the city commission during his presentation, noting the firm has a “strong governmental” and “litigation background.”

Sossi was among nine law firms wanting the Mercedes job, which included Donna City Attorney Javier Villalobos, who’s also a McAllen City Commissioner; Weslaco City Commissioner Greg Kerr with Jones, Galligan, Key & Lozano; former Alamo City Attorney Damian Orozco; and Edcouch City Attorney Orlando Jimenez.

Immediately following the attorneys’ presentations, outgoing Commissioner James Howard Wade motioned to appoint Sossi to the position, which was seconded by Mayor Henry Hinojosa and passed by a unanimous decision of the city commission.

The city began negotiating Sossi’s pay Thursday.

Commissioner Cristela “Cris” De Leon questioned the attorneys about how they might interact with citizens, some of whom regularly attend meetings.

“The city attorney’s job is to give legal advice to the city and to give legal advice to the commission,” Sossi said in response. “It’s not to give legal advice to the public, and sometimes you can compromise your role if you’re assisting people.”

The Mercedes City Commission also had an item on its agenda to appoint a city prosecutor, in addition to a city attorney, to oversee municipal legal matters such as traffic tickets.

“I don’t know if it’s cost-effective for the city,” Sossi said when asked about the prosecutor position, adding he has experience in serving in the additional role.

“It’s not a question about capability, it’s a question of being efficient with tax dollars,” Sossi said, adding the city might want to consider appointing a separate attorney as a prosecutor who would work through his office.

The Mercedes City Commission took no action on naming a prosecutor at its meeting Tuesday.

Sossi said he or Troiani will attend city meetings in Mercedes.

“We’re expecting the best from you,” Yolanda Molina, a citizen who regularly attends city commission meetings, told Sossi outside the commission chamber.

“I will deliver,” Sossi responded.