Category Archives: Palmas v Sanchez

“Lawsuit dismissed, Hidalgo bus fight appears over”

That’s The Monitor’s headline this morning, with this quote from NLF client, Hidalgo Councilmember Guillermo Ramirez:

“It was a very odd case, because you had a councilmember — Mr. Franz being the councilmember — suing his own city to protect his own interests,” Ramirez said.

See also this related news about injunctions granted in the Rio Grande Valley, this time to stop a Donna ISD school board meeting.  NLF attorney Jerad Najvar was consulted for the article.

ICYMI: Hidalgo County Judge Chases Councilmen Down Freeway; Forced to Recuse

Read this fascinating account of what the judge in our Palmas v Sanchez case did November 6, which NLF then used to secure his recusal from this important case last week.

A new, visiting judge has been assigned to hear the case, with a status hearing set for December 6.  In the meantime, since no injunction order has been entered in this case, S to N Transport has been operating, providing commuters from Mexico with a choice of bus companies at the Hidalgo International Bridge.

McAllen’s The Monitor Reports on Hidalgo County Judge’s Astounding Injunction Order to Protect City Councilman’s Bus Monopoly

Read this report by The Monitor’s Dave Hendricks.  It accurately describes the court proceeding.  Then, read this editorial from The Monitor: “Governance by judicial fiat in Hidalgo City isn’t working.”  The editorial contains this quote:

In other words, forget the free enterprise system and forget the merits of competition. A monopoly that happens to protect the business interests of an elected public official is preferable to businesses competing for customers, which might protect the interests of the public.

If only Judge Contreras had been around when cell phone companies had the audacity to take business away from landline companies, or when automobile companies had the audacity to take business away from saddle makers.

Najvar Law Firm is representing S to N Transport, the company enjoined by the temporary injunction, as well as the two defendant councilmembers from the City of Hidalgo. This order left us speechless, and we will be taking immediate action to rectify it.  Currently, a hearing on our motion for sanctions (on behalf of the two councilmembers) and motion to increase the bond amount is set for Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 8 am.  Additional legal actions will be taken immediately, and we do not expect this injunction to remain in place for long.

Finally: Ruling Tomorrow on Request for Injunction Against S to N Transport

MEDIA ADVISORY

November 5, 2013

Ruling Tomorrow Regarding Hidalgo Councilman Rudy Franz’s Attempt to Protect His Bus Monopoly at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge

Today finally marked the conclusion of the temporary injunction hearing in Rudy Franz’s lawsuit to keep S to N Transport from competing with Franz’s bus company, STS, for traffic at the Hidalgo Reynosa International Bridge.  Judge Jesse Contreras of the 449th District Court of Hidalgo County will announce his decision in court tomorrow, Wednesday, November 6, at 1:00 p.m.  If Judge Contreras grants Franz’s request for an injunction, it will mean that S to N will be prohibited from operating while the lawsuit proceeds.

Rudy Franz’s attorney indicated to the court that he would drop the claims against Franz’s fellow city councilmembers Guillermo Ramirez and Gustavo Sanchez.  “Rudy Franz, by nonsuiting the councilmembers, effectively admitted that the claims against them were entirely bogus and should never have been filed,” said Jerad Najvar, attorney for the councilmembers.  “We have already filed a motion for sanctions to force Mr. Franz to reimburse the councilmembers and the city for the cost of this litigation.”

If the district court grants the injunction, preventing S to N from offering its superior services and providing riders with a choice of bus companies, S to N will immediately appeal, and expects to prevail.

Details for Wednesday, Nov. 6 ruling:

Judge Mario Ramirez Juvenile Justice Center

1001 N. Doolittle Rd.

Edinburg, TX 78540

1:00 p.m.

 

Court coordinator: Regina Moreno

(956) 381-0744

Friday Court Hearing Pivotal in City of Hidalgo’s Liberation From Power Broker Rudy Franz

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 1, 2013

Contact: Jerad Najvar, 281-684-1227

Friday Court Hearing Pivotal in

City of Hidalgo’s Liberation From Power Broker Rudy Franz

HIDALGO, TX. – Today a Hidalgo County district court will hold a hearing that will effectively determine whether long-time power broker Rodolfo “Rudy” Franz may maintain his monopoly on bus transportation from the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge into McAllen.  Franz is not only the captain of the “Concerned Citizens of Hidalgo,” or “Red Team,” which has controlled city policy through systematic intimidation for decades, but also currently sits on City Council.  He has sued his own City, two fellow councilmembers, and a rival transportation company to protect his own business interests from legitimate competition.

While the immediate issue before the court concerns a city permit granted to S to N Transport, a bus company now competing with Franz for business, a ruling against Franz has the potential to send ripples throughout the entire Rio Grande Valley, where similar systems of machine politics, perpetuated by official harassment of political opponents, is commonplace.

For more than a decade, Franz’s company STS Transportation has been the only bus company permitted by the City of Hidalgo.  Franz also owns 7 of the 14 city issued Hidalgo taxi permits, and until June of this year Franz and his wife owned the only towing companies approved for the Police Department’s non-consent towing rotation.  However, after a five-year effort, on September 23, 2013, S to N Transport finally secured the City Council’s approval to provide bus services.  This contested vote represented a major victory against Franz’s political machine for a city accustomed to official reprisals for anyone who challenged its authority.

S to N did not get to this point without a fight.  Councilman Franz first sued two political rivals on the City Council, Guillermo Ramirez and Gustavo Sanchez, alleging “political retaliation” and seeking an injunction to prevent them from voting on the permit.  Franz was initially granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) on August 12, but when that case was removed to federal court and the order expired, Franz filed another lawsuit—this time adding the City itself as a defendant—and secured another TRO.

After retaining Najvar Law Firm, a political and constitutional law firm based in Houston, Ramirez and Sanchez persuaded the judge that no court may enjoin members of city council from voting on legislation, the job for which they were elected. See Editorial, “Judicial restraint” (The Monitor, Sept. 10, 2013).  This ruling finally allowed a vote in City Council, which approved the permit September 23.

On September 24th, 2013, the day after the approval, Franz filed another request for an injunction to prohibit S to N from operating under the newly-approved permit.  Still lacking any basis in the law, the court granted this third TRO on September 24, further delaying competition in the bus market until a hearing on Franz’s injunction request.  That hearing is now set for Friday, November 1.  In the meantime, S to N finally began operating this week, since the TRO expired October 25.  Friday’s hearing will determine whether S to N will be enjoined from operating until this case is resolved.  Franz’s obvious goal is to enjoin S to N until Hidalgo’s May elections, when he hopes to reassert Red Team control.

This case presents an opportunity for the Hidalgo County District Court to restore the rule of law to Hidalgo infighting and achieve justice for S to N Transport, which has complied with all legal requirements and is finally providing riders boarding at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge with a choice of bus companies.

But this case is important beyond the concerns of the immediate parties.  Franz’s Red Team operates in Hidalgo much the way political machines operate in other towns throughout the Rio Grande Valley.  Most commonly, through their political control of city councils and various government-entity employers, these political machines punish opponents by pulling strings to affect adverse employment actions.  A few examples from Hidalgo:

  • After former Hidalgo Police Chief Vernon Rosser recommended the approval of three vehicle-for-hire permits in February 2012, which the Red Team-controlled city council rejected, Franz nonetheless retaliated by personally orchestrating Rosser’s exit from office.  See Dave Hendricks, “Hidalgo power broker forces out longtime police chief” (The Monitor, May 14, 2012).
  • Councilman Gustavo Sanchez, who also serves as the popular boys’ basketball coach at Hidalgo ISD, was demoted to elementary gym teacher without explanation in May.  Sanchez had publicly opposed the Red Team in school board elections that month, and although the Red Team lost control, the outgoing school board executed Sanchez’s demotion on its last day in control.  See Dave Hendricks, “Hidalgo school district demotes basketball coach without explanation” (The Monitor, May 22, 2013).  Understanding the system he is fighting, Sanchez was unfazed, and an investigation by an interim Superintendent—not under the thumb of Rudy Franz—found no justification for the demotion and restored Sanchez to his position.
  • Councilman Guillermo Ramirez suffered a similar reprisal in 2011 after he opposed Rudy Franz’s political team in a city bond election. Since Franz’s Red Team held tight control over the school board at that time, Ramirez was reassigned, with a reduction in salary, without explanation.

These are just a few representative examples of how these machines coerce voters and maintain their illegitimate grip on power.  Despite the adversity they have faced throughout this process, Ramirez and Sanchez have stood their ground in making decisions in the best interest of the city, and S to N has remained persistent.  But political retaliation is not just directed at councilmembers and other high officials; these machines also intimidate ordinary school district employees.  How many others have had their livelihoods threatened by Rudy Franz and his allies over the last few decades, but have been fearful of speaking up?

A victory for S to N tomorrow will send a strong message throughout the Valley, where scores of towns and cities have their own Rudy Franz dictating policy and harassing residents, that business as usual can change.

Details for Friday, Nov. 1 hearing:

Judge Mario Ramirez Juvenile Justice Center

1001 N. Doolittle Rd.

Edinburg, TX 78540

1:00 p.m.

Court coordinator: Regina Moreno

(956) 381-0744

Defendants’ attorney will be available for media inquiries following the hearing.  The case is Palmas, et al. v. Sanchez, et al., No. C-4917-13-K, in the 449th Dist. Ct. of Hidalgo County.

Jerad Najvar practices political and appellate law and is founder of the Najvar Law Firm in Houston.  He represents Councilmember Guillermo Ramirez, Councilmember Gustavo Sanchez, and Juan Munoz, owner of S to N Transport, defendants in the Palmas case. 

 

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ICYMI: McAllen’s KGBT TV Report Prior to Last Week’s Palmas v Sanchez Hearing

Nadia Galindo with KGBT Channel 4 interviewed Hidalgo Councilman Guillermo Ramirez and attorney Jerad Najvar prior to last Friday’s temporary injunction hearing in Palmas v. Sanchez.

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Najvar objected to procedural deficiencies with the Plaintiffs’ petition, and the judge rescheduled the hearing for November 1, allowing the plaintiffs to amend.  In the meantime, as Defendants pointed out, the court had no further authority to extend the temporary restraining order, so S to N Transport was able to finally begin running its buses–competing directly with Councilmember Franz’s STS Transportation–picking up passengers at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge and transporting them to McAllen.