Ethics commission investigating allegations against former member

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 9:42 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - A former ethics commissioner and city council candidate is in hot water for allegedly violating the ethics code.

On Wednesday, the ethics commission found that the facts in his case did warrant a further examination to determine if he was in the wrong.

“All in favor, say ‘aye,’ all opposed... motion carries.”

And with that, the city’s ethics commission will now move forward with a probe into whether or not lobbying rules may have been violated.

It all stems from a May 17th meeting in which Hector Lee Patino, a church pastor and former ethics commissioner, approached city council about a project that had been denied in the past.

“There is some mention or evidence that Mr. Patino is lobbying for this particular item and that he’s not a registered lobbyist so just a point of concern.”

A concern about his involvement with a project before city council and whether he had engaged in lobbying efforts on behalf of North America Industrial Park.

“He had meetings with city staff on this particular project I understand that there had actually been text message with city officials that he was a representative of this entity,” said Alyssa Castillon, assistant city attorney.

The city’s ethics ordinance requires anyone who gets paid to lobby on behalf of someone else to register as a lobbyist.

The issue is whether Patino received payment or was acting as a community advocate.

“Well, it depends because you know, we’re community activists and also you know, I’m a pastor, so...” said Patino.

“Mr. Patino, are you here as a community activist or are you here on behalf of Patino Consulting Firm?” asked Councilmember Vanessa Perez.

Although no formal or official complaint has been made to the ethics commission by anyone, the city attorney’s office say they brought it up to the commission because of information they received.

“Additionally, he did communicate with Councilmember Rodriguez to advocate for this entity and this particular project to be put on the agenda for may 17th, 2021,” said Castillon.

They say they even went as far as sending a letter notifying Patino that if he were to continue acting as a lobbyist he would need to register and asked him to look over the ethics code.

That letter came back undelivered.

A follow up email was sent to which city staff say Patino responded to.

”The city attorney sent me this letter that apparently there’s a misunderstanding on the statue of a lobbyist.”

In the end, the city’s attorney says registering allows for greater transparency.

“Myriad of reasons that we would want lobbyist to register that way we can make sure that we are following all the rules and that the city officials are following all the rules, and so there’s not any undue influence its not regulated or protected,” said Rene Benavides, city attorney. “And when you lobby you have to follow certain things that you follow and we can regulate that a little better.”

A decision that will determine whether or not Patino actually failed to follow the rules or was victim.

Now, in that evidentiary hearing, Patino will be able to explain his side as well as people involved in the case.

Evidence will also be presented to the commission.

The hearing could potentially take place next month.

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