Sunland Park Council postpones mayor selection

May 5, 2012 • State News

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. (AP) — The troubled New Mexico border town of Sunland Park still doesn’t have a mayor.

The city council unanimously decided Friday to postpone the mayoral appointment until May 14 because they said they needed more to review resumes from potential candidates.

The council on April 18 had appointed Javier Perea, a 24-year-old jewelry store worker, to fill the seat. But Perea resigned last week after questions were raised about whether the council violated open meetings laws because so many people came to the meeting they couldn’t all [auth] fit in the chambers and the overflow crowd could not hear.

Mayor-elect Daniel Salinas was barred from taking the seat after being accused in a plot to force his opponent, Gerardo Hernandez, from the race with a secretly recorded video of Hernandez getting a topless lap dance at his campaign office. The allegations resulted in a police raid on the town, which has since turned into widespread probe of the town’s operations and a series of other arrests and charges.

Salinas now faces 33 felony counts that include extortion, bribery and receiving kickbacks from a city contractor.

Perea and Hernandez were the only two people who showed interest in the mayor’s post when the floor was opened up at Friday evening’s meeting in a courtyard outside city hall.

But when it came time to vote, one councilman made a motion to postpone the decision and it passed unanimously.

Mayor pro tem Isabel Santos walked away from the meeting in disgust, claiming the council had changed the items on the agenda. “This meeting is being manipulated,” she said.

Hernandez has challenged the results from the March election, and is among those who have sought appointment to the vacant seat.

He said he didn’t bring a resume because he ran a campaign and made himself known to residents.

Hernandez begged the council to “stop the circus.”

“When you do something wrong from the beginning, it ends up wrong,” he said. “So do it the right way this time.”

About 70 people attended Friday’s meeting, less than half as many who were at the April 18 meeting.

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