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PALMVIEW — Hours after the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office Public Integrity Unit announced it had been investigating allegations that Palmview officials had been misusing a city-owned credit card for personal use, city officials pointed to candidates who recently lost their bid for a spot on the board of alderman as the culprits.

Palmview Police Chief Christopher Barrera, in a press conference on Monday, said the investigation was suspicious.

“The city finds it coincidental that news of this investigation was released on the first day of early vote in Hidalgo County, and more specifically, in the La Joya Independent School District,” Barrera said Monday. “The public is well aware of the negative atmosphere any election generates in Hidalgo County.”

Around Palmview and La Joya, however, political passion runs higher. Divided by two factions, the recent Palmview city elections hold the same political ties as the LJISD board election does. Palmview City Manager Johnn Alaniz is seeking re-election for the LJISD board with support from current board Vice President Irene M. Garcia, wife of Palmview Mayor Jorge Garcia, the in-laws of Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores; the opposing group consists of other area city leaders like La Joya Mayor Billy Leo who supported campaigns to unseat Garcia and some of the current LJISD board members. Those tensions, city officials indicated, make candidates and incumbents alike moving targets.

“It is important to note that the complaints originated from losing candidates of the May 2010 city election,” Barrera said.

Monday morning, before the city’s press conference, Sheriff Lupe Treviño announced his deputies were acting on public complaints, which initiated the criminal investigation into the possible misuse of city money via city credit cards, but would not name who had lodged any complaints to his office.

“The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office Public Integrity Unit has not developed any suspects this early in the investigation nor is it ready to make a determination that any laws were broken,” Treviño said. “Our finding will be presented to a state grand jury for possible indictments.”

Thus far, grand jury subpoenas have been issued and executed for financial records, he added.

“From the onset of the investigation, the City of Palmview has fully cooperated with sheriff’s investigators, voluntarily releasing hundreds of documents to ensure a thorough and complete investigation,” Barrera said.

Palmview city officials have conducted their own similar investigation, Barrera said, including audits conducted by Reyna & Garza and Long & Chilton auditing firms with no wrongdoing uncovered. Barrera on Monday stressed that the current administration and staff have not used, signed or possessed any city credit card for personal business; the city only has one credit card managed by top city officials. Likewise, they haven’t requested reimbursements in connection with any personal credit card use or expense.

“The city can assure the citizens of Palmview that city officials have closely monitored the use of such credit cards to ensure that it is used strictly for official city business,” Barrera said. “The city is confident that at the conclusion of this investigation all city officials will be cleared of any wrongdoing and will be allowed to resume their duties.”

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