Crystal City, Texas, a south Texas city of over 7,000 people, is located just fifty miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. This week we find that Mexico’s traditional culture of corruption has spilled across the U.S. border and infected the city at its highest levels.
Crystal City’s mayor, city manager, mayor pro tempore, a councilman, and a former councilman were all arrested under an indictment obtained by the U.S. attorney’s office in San Antonio. A second councilman was charged in a separate case. That leaves just one councilman not facing felony federal charges.
Once billed as the “Spinach Capital of the World”, Crystal City has roiled in allegations of misuse of public money. The indictment confirms that the town’s leadership used their positions to “enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting payments and other things of value”. The charges involved not only tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and fraudulent government salaries (one official, in a position that normally pays less than $20K per year, was given an annual salary of nearly $200,000) but the closing of several illegal casinos in the area and the smuggling of illegal immigrants into the United States. Oddly, none of the men have been removed from office. Richard Durbin Jr., the U.S. attorney for San Antonio, explained,
“What we can do is that first step. In the end, it falls back on the citizens to make the next decision on who they put in those offices, because that’s how the system works.”
Durbin also said he hoped the indictment would help restore public confidence in their local government. However, citizens had already tried ousting the officials before but found that the city attorney blocked their efforts. When a vote was finally called to recall the officials, none of the officials showed up at the council meeting.