The foundation of the establishment’s, by extension Mayor Jim Danner’s way of maintaining control of city hall, is becoming unstable. According to, Hondo City Manager Robert T. Herrera is looking to abandon Hondo for an opportunity in Harlingen; leaving behind the turmoil that has been stirred up by the recall of 2009, which ousted the three Hispanic council members.
Herrera is one of three finalists for the city manager’s job in Harlingen, with a final decision to be made at the August 17 meeting of the Harlingen city council. It appears Herrera was attempting to conceal the fact he was actively looking for another job from the council.
 It was revealed by a councilmember that the only city official made aware of the situation before it was discovered online was Mayor James Danner. Perhaps this was to give Danner a “heads up,” so the mayor would be afforded time to think on what to do if Herrera was to leave.
Herrera’s interview in Harlingen, discovered on the internet, is part of the continuing pattern of engaging in conspiracies of silence, an allegation that some in Hondo contend the city manager and the mayor engage in hand-in-hand.
Herrera’s management style in Hondo has recently been drawing fire from councilmember Clyde Haak, community interest groups, and citizens, as they contend that Herrera is utterly mismanaging city hall. Furthermore, the citizens claim they are not getting what they are paying for, which is a contract worth nearly $140,000 per year.
It should be noted that the current contract for the city manager extends to 2012 and was awarded during a special meeting in 2008. Community leaders and members have questioned the legitimacy of the contract because it was awarded in a special meeting after the establishment was voted out of city hall by the three members of the Real Change council in the election of 2008.
The fact that the outgoing lame duck council it took upon themselves to take action on the contract, after the election in May 2008 and before the Real Change Council was sworn in, can be seen by any informed observer of the events of the past two years, that the contract was a ploy to ensure the city manager would maintain loyalty to the establishment, and the mayor.
The contract itself has been described as lucrative, and provides layers of protection if the council wants to fire Herrera. Once the contract was signed by the old guard, the stage was set for what has been two years of divisive politics.
Current council member Ann Michelle Long, a real estate agent, who has laid the tracks of division by circulating the recall petition and seeking the ouster of Chavel Lopez, who defeated her in the May 2008 election, was also one of the members of the lame duck council that approved the contract for Herrera on her way out the door.
Herrera’s critics point to the audit of 2007-08, which was two years late, in which fundamental accounting principles were not attended to, and has cost the citizen’s over $100,000 dollars in unanticipated costs in order to correct the multitude of errors. Jaime Sanchez, a member of the local community interest group, Hondo Empowerment Committee, has contended that the city manager would have been fired in the private business world for such a deficient and problem riddled audit report, and noted it wasn’t the first time the city manager has had problems when it came to handling the city’s finances.
At the Aug. 9 regularly scheduled council meeting, Jaime Sanchez read aloud from an article published in the Houston Chronicle on Aug. 15, 2002. In the article, it details the troubling scenario that led to the resignation of Herrera as city manager from the city of La Porte.
According to the article, “La Porte City Council on Monday approved the auditing committee’s recommendation to hire accounting firm Tiller & Co. of Baytown to audit all city credit-card transactions dating back six years.” The article continues, “The approval came in response to complaints that the city manager had used his card for paying bills that weren’t city expense…which came under scrutiny after Finance Director Cynthia Alexander determined some transactions by City Manager Robert T. Hererra were questionable.”
It must also be pointed out that several council members were also under similar scrutiny at the same time in La Porte in 2002, and Herrera was never convicted of a crime. However, this incident is seen as the reason Herrera was either forced, or willingly resigned as La Porte city manager. Herrera’s next employer was the city of Hondo which hired him in 2003.
The fact that the city manager is seemingly desperate to get out of Hondo can be interpreted as a significant blow to the real estate cartel’s grasp on city hall. The members of the cartel will undoubtedly be perplexed when they hear the news that their inside man wants out. The same real estate agents and their cohorts involved with the recall of the three Hispanic council members, such as the Vance Tomey’s and Bob Heyen, were the pushers and architects of  Hondo’s Home Rule Charter which was adopted in 2007 because of low voter turnout and the local paper’s support.
In its current form, the Home Rule Charter makes the city manager’s position close to that of a dictator as it reduces the councilmember positions to be nothing more than an advisory group. Checks and balances are few, and usually they can be bypassed by the manager because of the design of the City Charter, which has arguably been the root cause of the political chaos.
Apparently the designers of the Charter figured if they vest all the power into the city manager’s position, then they could more easily maintain control of city hall, and its coffers.
One might ask, “Why would the cartel go through all this trouble?” The answer is simple, because “where infrastructure is built and expanded is very important in the real estate world” Is this not so Mr. Heyen? (Heyen was chief circulator of the recall petition, and member of the Charter Commission.)
Despite all their efforts to “keep the Mexicans out” and maintain control, the real estate oligarchy are still going to have to work hard to keep people in the dark. Now that the HEC and councilmember Haak are shining a light on what Mr. Herrera and the gang has been involved in, it’s suddenly time for their inside guy to leave.
Yet for Hondo, many things are left in doubt. The upcoming audit of 2008-2009, which was due in March, is now nearly six months late and is a pending issue. The circumstances surrounding Wright Flyer’s Aviation school, which was forced to close its doors only three months after making a much celebrated move to Hondo are still in flux. The status of the million dollar loan the mayor and manager made on behalf of Hondo’s tax payers for an anticipated vocational college is in question. It was a loan they made under the guise of “if we loan they will come,” yet no written commitment from an educational entity has been made. Never mind the interest that the city is already paying for their cowboy loaning techniques.
To see the city manager attempting to bailout now, is a sign of that he is able to see the writing on the wall – and it says “the mayor’s ship is sinking.”