Councilman asks Mabton mayor to resign

MABTON - In a surprise ending to an otherwise peaceful Mabton City Council meeting last night, Mabton City Councilman Mario Martinez asked Mayor Velva Herrera to resign.

After the meeting the Daily Sun News asked Herrera if she planned to resign.

The mayor admitted she was surprised by Martinez's request, especially since it came at a budget meeting.

"What would be different if another person came in?" she asked. "I came in without any knowledge and I've gone to the council for help several times. I was turned down and had to do it on my own."

Herrera said she believes the city needs a city administrator but the council cut the position.

When Martinez was asked about that he said all the mayor had to do was tell the council she wanted to hire a city administrator.

Herrera said she only has one more year left on her term and that she just wants to finish it out.

The evening started with the council working on the preliminary 2009 city budget. By law the city must have the budget in place for two weeks before holding a public hearing on the matter. Once the hearing is held the council can vote on whether to accept the budget.

Last night's attempt at working on the budget was to get the document in place so the city can hold a public hearing Dec. 31. But, after three hours the council adjourned without having a preliminary budget in place.

The hold-up is the city doesn't have the beginning and ending fund balances, something Council members Oping Huston and Martinez are working on with city clerk Kitty Zavala.

The numbers given to council at the start of last night's workshop showed the city's current expense fund with a 2009 beginning balance of just $1,304.16. This number was taken from the 2008 budget. Martinez then said he had looked at past budgets and said he knew how to work up the figures to get the beginning balance for the fund in 2009.

After crunching some numbers he told the council that the fund is in the negative by $43,572.98. The city does have a current expense contingency fund with $84,000 that the city can use to bring that balance to zero.

The cemetery fund is projected to have a beginning fund balance of $8,474.54, but is expected to have a deficit of approximately $3,000 by the end of 2009.

All other beginning and ending balances of the city's other funds have not been figured out yet.

The city expects to take in an estimated $2,642,316 in revenues in 2009 but $2,831,968 is earmarked for expenditures. This will leave the city nearly $190,000 out of balance.

"We've been overspending for years and it's all starting to catch up to us now," Martinez said. "We're going to have to make cuts."

Councilwoman Huston agreed.

The problem then became what the city can cut. Martinez said that the city might have to fire its employees, something he said would be the worst thing that could happen to the city.

"Can the city run with one cop, one city works employee and one city employee," Martinez asked.

It was then revealed that the city might be further in the red due to some expenditures that haven't been accounted for. Martinez said this could bring the deficit up to $240,000.

This prompted Councilwoman Vera Zavala to state the council should have been working on the budget long before December.

"We should have been meeting like this all along," she said. "This is why we need quarterly reports."

It was at this point that Martinez asked the mayor how she can assure the council that this overspending won't continue. The mayor then asked Martinez if he wanted her to resign.

"Yes," he said.

Martinez told Herrera he doesn't doubt her heart and that he knows she wants the best for the city. But, he said, at some point she must come to realize that she doesn't have the skills to be the chief executive officer of Mabton.

Her response was she had people working for her that she believed in.

"Why would I question them," she asked.

Zavala shot back that Martinez and Huston have done more for the budget than the people she's hired.

A Mabton citizen, Maria Rose, then asked the council what the point of having the mayor resign would be.

Martinez told her the city could get a mayor that would have the skill set to make contacts and to know who to call when help is needed.

Zavala said she wanted no part of the conversation and said she didn't think the mayor should resign.

The meeting adjourned until next Tuesday, Dec. 23, when the council will meet at its regular time at 6 p.m.

As of now the city is expecting to hold the public hearing on the budget Dec. 31, although Martinez was unclear if the city could legally do that because the proposed 2009 budget will not have been available to the public for the required 14 days.

He said the city might need to shut down for a few days in the beginning of January to comply with that. He said until then the council will work on balancing 2009's budget.


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