Government Vehicles Used in Starr County Candidates' Toy Giveaway

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ESCOBARES -- A video showing public safety vehicles providing an escort to campaigning candidates as they hand out toys is raising questions. 

The video was shot by a candidate for a justice of the peace office in Starr County. In it, it shows sirens blaring announcing Santa's early arrival on some Escobares streets December 24th.

A city fire truck led the holiday procession and a police vehicle blocked traffic behind it. 

Two political candidates running for office were greeting the children with toys as they approached the caravan.

In the video shared on social by one of those candidates, Luis Garcia is heard saying, "We are bringing toys for the children on behalf of your candidate running for justice of the peace for precinct eight." 

The candidate running for that same office, Rossina Peña-Garcia, questions the decision to use tax payer money in the form of public safety vehicles used to provide an escort for campaigning candidates.

The decision was made by the City of Escobares. Mayor Noel Escobar addressed the concerns.

He says he was motivated by a lackluster annual community toy giveaway. Last year the city received donations to cover "Close to 1800 or 2000 gifts. This year, we barely got up to 500," he says. Escobar says they distributed the gifts in the community center on December 20th, but, he adds, "We ran out of gifts."

Mayor Escobar says a couple of candidates were in attendance. Peña Garcia confirms she was among the group.  

Later, the mayor says he was presented with another opportunity.

Two businessmen, the candidates in the video, wanted to give out more than 500 gifts, but they asked for public safety vehicles to keep the traffic away from children.

The request was granted and four days after the community center giveaway the rest of the toys were handed out.

Escobar says, "I'm sorry, but my intent was just to have the kids get a gift, have a little merrier Christmas, maybe some of them didn't get anything. Maybe that was an opportunity for them to get something. So, that was my intentions, solely my intentions. What we're seeing now is that it just happened at the wrong time." 

Misusing government property is part of the Texas Penal code under offenses against public administration.

CHANNEL FIVE NEWS reached out to county officials. They are aware of the video but there is currently no criminal investigation into the incident. 


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