San Benito's most famous barber, Mayor Joe Hernandez, is accused of cutting around laws to benefit his own pocket."Joe Hernandez knew there was an ordinance... He knew he was violating such an ordinance... But he went ahead and did it anyway," Janice Cassidy, attorney for the victim said.It all stems from a raspa stand called Noe's Tropical Sno-Wiz next to his salon.The mayor owns the property it's leased on.A complaint against him alleges 10 charges of ethics violations including abuse of official capacity for using his power to profit from the lease agreement in violation of several city ordinances.One of them bans mobile vendors in the city like raspa stands.Alfonso Benevides filed the complaint.He calls himself a community activist. "While this ordinance might have been enforced on someone else... He was not enforcing it on himself... And asking personnel to look away from it," he claimed.The mayor admits the raspa stand did operate on his property after he took office in May but with proper city permits. "A number of raspa stands were issued permits... not just that one," Hernandez said.Code ordinance violations alleged in the official complaint also include accusations the mayor's business provided illegal electricity and water services to the raspa stand to avoid permit, water tap, electric meter and other fees.At a press conference held by the victim's attorney, Janice Cassidy also accused Hernandez of violating conflict of interest laws by speaking in favor for his own July 2011 agenda item that would have changed the mobile vendor ordinance to ultimately benefit him."He announced in the meeting that he knew he had a conflict of interest and had signed a record Affidavit required by the state," Cassidy said.
"He would not participate in the discussion at the meeting... but in the meeting he participated in the discussion and attempted to encourage the rest of the city commission to change the ordinance to accommodate his special interest."A source with the city says raspa stands grandfathered in before the ordinance that banned them have been allowed to operate; however, new stands, like the one on the mayor's property, are likely in violation of law. It's also illegal to bypass city permit, meter and tap line fees, according to the same source who spoke under the condition of anonymity.What was the mayor's response to claims he's illegally providing utility services to the raspa stand?"We approve so many city ordinances... You know... I don't know what's there... We set policies and approve city ordinances every darn day... That doesn't mean I'm going to remember everything," he said.The mayor says the allegations against him are in retaliation by Janice Cassidy who used to work for the City of San Benito. He claims he will have the stand removed if necessary and says it's only there because he was only trying to help a friend's relative start a business.The complaint against the mayor will be forwarded to San Benito TMs city attorney for review.A special prosecutor could be assigned to the case.Violation of City Charter could mean the mayor TMs forfeiture of his seat.