Convicted Harlingen commissioner faces jail, fine and removal of office
Fri, 11 Nov 2011 04:51:39 GMT —
It takes a Cameron County jury only about 90 minutes to convict Kori Marra on an ethics violation.
The Harlingen City Commissioner was found guilty for failing to abstain and sign a document saying she had a conflict of interest in regards to her business in the downtown area subject for discussion at a city meeting in September 2010.
John Blaylock is a legal analyst for Action 4 News.
"The law requires you to file a piece of paper that says I have an interest in the property subject to this matter... And that piece of paper should be made public so that everybody knows you have an interest in the property," he said.
Marra's attorney, Valeria Garcia, had claimed the discussion about a downtown development district was never subject to a vote and therefore she did not violate law.
But Attorney Pro Tem Luis Saenz, the prosecutor in the case, says he proved she did break laws.
"I think the evidence clearly showed that she was warned before hand not to participate in this discussion," Saenz explained in a telephone interview. "And she was warned before hand to file her affidavit... And I think the jury must have given great weight to the fact that she was warned about these items and disregarded the law."
Blaylock believes jurors likely thought Kori Marra tried to financially benefit by participating at that meeting with or without a vote.
"Because you can use your influence to affect other people to vote for it on your behalf... And the law is trying to keep public officials from influencing or using their influence to benefit them financially," he said.
The prosecutor says the jury's verdict sends a very clear message to elected officials that they are not above the law.
"The public certainly appreciates their service especially when it's not paid... but none the less... they are not above the law... and must abide by the law... and really should seek council and when council gives them advice they should follow that advice," Saenz said.
Kori Marra was offered the opportunity to have the charges against her dropped altogether in a plea deal called pretrial diversion, according to Blaylock.
Reporter: "Was it stubbornness as some people are calling it for her to ignore the warnings of others and the opportunity to have the case against her dropped?"
Blaylock: "Stubbornness or a severe conviction that you believe you're right."
A jury says she was wrong.
She now faces up to a year in jail or a $4,000 fine, up to 1 year in jail and possible removal of office.
The prosecutor in the case says City Charter calls for the immediate removal from office upon conviction.
Kori Marra's attorney did not return multiple phone calls from Action 4 News asking for a comment on a possible appeal.
Mayor Chris Boswell called Thursday's verdict a "disappointment" and said he stands by his testimony and belief she did nothing wrong. Click here to join Ryan Wolf's Facebook page.