Mayor's 'Raspagate' leads to citywide crackdown in San Benito
Tue, 24 Jan 2012 05:31:30 GMT —
Less than 24 hours after a formal complaint is filed against San Benito's mayor for allegedly abusing his power and breaking city ordinances, the raspa stand at the center of it all has been removed from his barbershop property.
"We're trying to figure out what occurred at that point," Manuel Lara, city manager said? "What were the violations and why a permit was issued...If it was issued without authorization."
Lara says permit and code enforcement departments are now under the microscope.
He wants to know why a permit was issued for Noe's Tropical Sno-Wiz in April 2011, when a ban against new mobile food vendors has been in place since 2008.
The raspa stand operated under a land lease agreement with Joe Hernandez.
The mayor took office in May, one month after the raspa stand opened.
He denied any wrongdoing.
"I guess I just happened to get permission from somebody to put their raspa stand next to my property," the mayor said on Friday. "I don't see any conflict of interest.... they were going to modify the city ordinance to allow these vendors to continue selling the raspas."
The mayor faces 10 charges of ethics violations in the complaint filed by self-proclaimed community activist, Alfonso Benevides.
His attorney is Janice Cassidy.
Hernandez believes Cassidy has a personal vendetta against him.
She hates me.
Cassidy used to work for the City of San Benito.
Some of the other allegations she waged against the mayor included how he illegally provided utilities for the raspa stand to bypass city fees and permits.
A water line once connecting services from the mayor's barbershop has now been dug up.
Hernandez says he never violated the law because the raspa stand's operator actually hooked up the water line; however, he admits he did collect additional money for utility services.
That TMs is likely considered improper, according to the city manager.
Hernandez argues there are dozens of other businesses in the city doing the exact same thing.
For a cash strapped city like San Benito that could amount to thousands of dollars in uncollected fees.
The city manager says there may also be public hazards from illegal hookups for water and electricity.
That's why his office is planning to go door-to-door, business-to-business, to find out who else may be ripping the city off.
"We want to run a professional business and treat everyone equally and if there's any flaw in our administrative process of how we handle these particular businesses ... It will be corrected," Lara said.
Those who violate city ordinances face fines.
But with public trust in question, some want the mayor to forfeit his seat once again.