Commissioner incumbents win easy victories in La Feria

LA FERIA — The two incumbents and a recently appointed newcomer on the La Feria City Commission easily defeated challengers in yesterday’s elections.

The victories by Julian Guevara Jr., Esmeralda Lozano and Don Garcia come after months of controversy surrounding public statements concerning former city manager Sunny Philip.

Each of the three victors won by more than 60 percent of the vote.

The challengers were Alma Martinez for Place 3, Ignacio A. Garcia for Place 4 and Jessie Garcia Jr. for Place 5.

A former city commissioner, John Hernandez, supporting Philip, had publicly called on voters to support the challengers.

Lozano said the victories show that the people of La Feria voted for transparency in city government.

“I think this election allowed the people to have their voices heard loud and clear and they are ready for transparency,” Lozano said.

“We have worked very hard to bring transparency and to truly represent the people’s voices at City Hall, to listen to their concerns and actually work to find resolution to issues.”

Guevara declined to comment on the controversy about Philip. But he said of the three winning candidates, “We all worked so hard. They believed in us and they know we’re going to continue to work and they know we’re going to continue to move the city forward. And I’m really grateful for all their support.”

Don Garcia could not be reached for comment after election returns were published. He was appointed in February to take the place of Commissioner Victor Gonzalez Jr., who left to continue his battle against cancer.

Philip was fired by the commission last July after serving as city manager for 23 years.

In December, city officials said they had discovered that up to $3 million in city funds intended for capital improvement projects was missing.

Philip says he was dismissed without “notice or reason” and that commissioners were making “unfounded accusations.”

“Let me be clear, ‘there are no missing funds’ or ‘unaccounted for funds,’” Philip said in a letter to the Valley Morning Star.

Philip says that rather than honor his city manager contract with the city, commissioners created “a smokescreen of innuendos about ‘missing funds.’”

Lozano said, “We have proven in open forum and the independent accounting firm has confirmed that $3 million is missing and unaccounted for with no paper trail.”