Hidalgo County just can’t win when it comes time to find a sheriff. The charges against former top cop Lupe Treviño, who pled guilty to money laundering in April, shook faith in law enforcement in the Rio Grande Valley. Treviño was replaced in April by interim sheriff Eddie Guerra, who was appointed by county commissioners—and now there are questions surrounding Guerra and a $10,000 check he received in a greeting card from the president of Edinburg private security firm Valley Metro Security, Frank Guerrero.
According to The Monitor, shortly after Guerra was installed as the temporary sheriff, Guerrero visited the office to deliver a card and a check. Guerra never cashed the check, though—and Guerrero shortly thereafter declared that he would be running for the nomination for sheriff in the upcoming primary against Guerra himself.
Guerrero’s check wasn’t cashed, and KGBT-TV reported Guerra sent emails to precinct chairs alleging Guerrero gave him the money on condition that Guerra secure him a job with the county.
Guerrero denies that he asked for a job when presenting the money.
“I never asked for a job. Never,” Guerrero said, adding that he hoped the issue did not come between his and Guerra’s friendship. “If that was true, that is a bribe and why didn’t he arrest me right then and there? If it was, why not kick me out of his office? That’s what he should have done if it was true.”
When asked whether he essentially accused his opponent of attempting to bribe him, Guerra responded by text message Friday afternoon from a meeting “I’m not going to get into mudslinging. I didn’t accept the check and it will be returned by the Aug. 14 deadline in compliance with the Texas Election Code.”
“If it was a bribe, he should have arrested me on the spot” and “I hope this doesn’t come between our friendship” aren’t statements that typically go hand-in-hand; at the very least, if Guerra and Guerrero have a friendship, it would help explain why Guerra didn’t do anything except decline to cash the check.
The situation gets trickier, though, when it comes to when the check has to be returned, which falls into what Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairman Ric Godinez calls a “gray area,” given the special circumstances of replacing Treviño. If Guerra waits more than 30 days after the filing period to return the check, he’d face a Class A misdemeanor—a charge that would render him ineligible to hold a position as a Peace Officer in Texas. It’s believed that the deadline is August 14th, which should cause no problems. Guerrero, though, seems prepared to make hay out of the situation:
Guerrero said he would be filing a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission about Guerra keeping the check and allegedly telling precinct chairs Guerrero had tried to use the money as a bribe.
Political opponents make ethics complaints about one another all the time, and assuming Guerra returns it in the next three weeks, it’s unlikely that this is going to cause him many problems. Still, the curious case of the check that at least one party suggests might have been a bribe could have long-reaching implications: The Monitor reports that Guerra also sent a press release on department letterhead stating that Guerrero would get his check back before the deadline—and the paper goes on to note that public employees can’t use internal email systems to distribute political advertising.
It would seem one would have a hard time making the argument that Guerra’s press release regarding a check he’s been fielding questions about constitutes “political advertising,” but the Monitor raises the specter of that.
Regardless of how all of this plays out, back-and-forth charges of bribery and/or ethics violations don’t do much good for the faith in law enforcement in Hidalgo County, which is unfortunate, given the shock that followed Treviño’s rapid fall.
(AP Photo/The Monitor, Gabe Hernandez)