Alpine City Council fires city manager, appoints convicted felon

ALPINE, Tx (KOSA) -- The Alpine City Council voted Tuesday night to fire City Manager Jessica Garza, but it's what they did after that is raising eyebrows.

Cynthia Salas was appointed as acting city manager, but according to the Big Bend Gazette she was convicted of a felony in 1991. The report said she won a race in 2018 but was declared ineligible.

The city council’s 3-2 vote to remove Garza from her position comes after months of turmoil. The motion was led by councilman Rick Stephens.

“There are a whole number of issues,” Stephens said. “In the last 18 months we under-ran the city budget in streets alone by $522,000. We’ve got 45 percent of our city employees have been here less than a year and a half. Twenty five percent for less than six months. When you’re losing employees at that rate it tends to get back to leadership.”

In previous meetings where Garza’s employment was voted on, Mayor Andres Ramos voted to keep her. However, on Tuesday evening he was not given a vote.

“I think the city manager was set up to fail by her staff,” Ramos said. “Undermining her, not giving her the proper reports or delaying them. You can’t do your job unless you have a good, strong supporting staff, and that was not the case here.”

A large portion of the meeting was spent arguing about whether the city charter allowed the mayor to vote.

City Attorney Rod Ponton, who was appointed to his position by the council only minutes earlier, declared the mayor did not have the right to vote on the firing.

“Yeah it felt like they had already arranged it,” Ramos said. “I’m going to bring it up at the next meeting, because I think there’s very serious issues there.”

Garza served as city manager for just over a year and a half. The council appointed City Secretary Salas to serve as acting city manager.

According to an article by the Big Bend Gazette in February 2018, Salas entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit bank fraud on January 30, 1991.