Weslaco Commissioner Gerardo “Jerry” Tafolla, who pleaded guilty to bribery Monday, has decided to step down from his District 4 seat, effective immediately.
In a resignation letter Tafolla submitted early Friday, he apologized to his fellow commissioners and Weslaco residents, but also expressed pride in his tenure on the commission.
“Although, I am not proud of my actions, I am not ashamed of the progress and the accomplishments that you (the citizens of Weslaco) and I as your city commissioner have brought to the City of Weslaco in the past nine and a half years,” Tafolla wrote.
“I want to apologize to all the citizens of Weslaco,” he continued, adding a special thanks to District 4 voters.
Tafolla’s fellow commissioners will vote on accepting his resignation this Tuesday during a
Weslaco Commissioner Gerardo “Jerry” Tafolla, who pleaded guilty to bribery last Monday, has decided to step down from his district 4 seat, effective last Friday. The Weslaco city commission was expected to accept Tafolla’s resignation during a regular meeting Tuesday.
In his resignation letter Tafolla apologized to the commission and Weslaco residents, but also expressed pride in his tenure on the commission.
“Although, I am not proud of my actions, I am not ashamed of the progress and the accomplishments that you (the citizens of Weslaco) ands I as your city commissioner have brought to the City of Weslaco in the past nine and a half years,” Tafolla wrote.
“I want to apologize to all the citizens of Weslaco,” he continued, adding a special thanks to district 4 voters.
Tafolla’s place on the commission has been in doubt since he pleaded guilty to federal program bribery this Monday in connection with a $38 million effort to rehabilitate the city’s water treatment facilities.
The plea is part of a larger bribery scheme involving the water plant which includes allegations against Tafolla, as well as several other public officials.
Initially, city leaders were unsure of how Tafolla’s guilty plea would affect his position on the commission. State law says an elected official can be removed from office in the event of a felony conviction.
But it was unclear if Tafolla’s guilty plea constituted a conviction that would immediately oust him from office, or if that was dependent on final sentencing.
The city manager said he had reached out to the city attorney for guidance on the issue.
Though Tafolla’s pending resignation now makes such legal questions moot, the commission still needed to formally accept it before moving on.
“Given the circumstances, it’s probably appropriate,” District 2 Commissioner Greg Kerr said of Tafolla’s resignation upon learning the news last Friday afternoon.
Kerr and fellow Commissioner Jose “J.P.” Rodriguez, district 3, based their campaigns on putting a stop to what they perceived to be corruption in the city’s leadership.
“What we saw and perceived to be a corruption issue back at the time — yeah, it’s good to see some of this stuff coming to light and people need to know about it. That’s good that people are finally starting to see, essentially, justice getting served,” Kerr said.
Rodriguez spoke about the ongoing water plant saga during a groundbreaking ceremony for the city’s new fire and EMS station last Thursday, prior to Tafolla submitting his letter of resignation.
“One of the reasons that I ran was because of the issues surrounding the water plant,” Rodriguez said.
“I’m not happy that our city is going through this, but I am happy that I feel like we’re going in the right direction. And I think it’s — we’re going to look for ways to continue positive progress for the city,” he said.
Rodriguez added that he and Kerr hope to establish an accountability system to prevent similar issues from happening again.
“We’re looking at the idea for creating an accountability and oversights committee to ensure that there’s an internal mechanism of checks and balances that makes sure that we don’t have to deal with this again in the future,” he said.
As to the vacancy on the city commission, it must be filled by special election, according to the city charter.
This post has been updated.