Donna’s Decision on Mayoral Candidate’s Ineligibility Still Stands
DONNA – Early voting begins next week and one Rio Grande Valley city election faces turmoil.
The city of Donna ruled candidate Jose Ernesto Lugo Jr. "administratively ineligible" to run for city mayor in the November 2017 election last week. That decision still stands today.
A complaint filed last Wednesday prompted the city to look into Lugo’s eligibility. The city reached their decision after confirming he hasn't lived in the city for a minimum of 6 months prior to seeking office.
The city requested assistance from the Secretary of State before making their decision. That office only offers guidance based on the Texas election code.
“The Secretary of State's office cannot determine whether or not someone is eligible or ineligible to run. All we can do is assist the city on eligibility issues," said a spokesperson with the department. “The city is the one who inevitably makes the final determination on whether or not someone is eligible or ineligible to run.”
Lugo rents from family. A map provided to CHANNEL 5 NEWS by the Donna city secretary shows a blue outline excludes the property the home sits on from city boundary.
This is due to a development agreement between the landowner and the city. A development agreement gives landowners immunity from being annexed into the city.
The Hidalgo County Appraisal District also shows that land isn’t taxed by the city.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to the Hidalgo County Elections Department. According to elections administrator, Yvonne Ramon, the updated map the city approved and provided the county shows the property is in city limits.
It’s unclear what paperwork wasn't filed and where the disconnect occurred. The Secretary of State says they're looking into the case.
In spite of the candidate being ineligible according to the city, Lugo’s name will remain on the ballot. The city attorney says it's too late to remove the name from the ballot days from an election.