San Benito fires Morado on split vote

SAN BENITO — After more than seven years, San Benito has a new city attorney — at least on an interim basis.

Last night, city commissioners voted 3-2 to fire City Attorney Ricardo Morado, appointing Mark Sossi interim city attorney.

While Mayor Ben Gomez and Commissioners Tony Gonzales and Rick Guerra voted to fire Morado and hire Sossi, Commissioners Rene Villafranco and Carol Lynn Sanchez voted against the motions.

Gomez said he requested the matters go to a vote.

“I wanted to bring something new to our legal counsel,” Gomez said after the votes. “I think we wanted to move the city into a different direction.”

Villafranco was on the commission that hired Morado as city attorney in mid 2011.

“Rick did an outstanding job for the city of San Benito,” Villafranco said in an interview. “I like how he got us this far. He guided us very well. He’s done good contracts and settlements. It’s bad to lose him at this time. I don’t see the urgency

of replacing him. He hasn’t done anything for us to terminate him.”

Gomez said Sossi offered to work at a rate of $175 an hour, the rate which Morado had charged since taking the job seven years ago.

Meanwhile, the city will continue to review proposals for the city attorney’s job, Gomez said.

“As long as he does a good job, he’ll be here for a while,” Gomez said of Sossi. “I want someone who will work for the city and move the city forward.”

Sossi, who served as Brownsville’s city attorney until 2017, said he might apply for the permanent job.

“I’m excited about serving the mayor, the commissioners and the community,” Sossi said after the votes.

Sossi had served nine years as Brownsville’s city attorney before city commissioners there voted 4-2 to fire him in August 2017.

At the time, Commissioner Jessica Tetreau said the city was “restructuring” its legal department and moving in a new “direction.” In San Benito, the push to replace Morado marked the second time the city had requested proposals from lawyers interested in the job. Last year, commissioners supported Morado when then-Commissioner Esteban Rodriguez requested the city advertise for attorneys’ qualifications.

At that time, Villafranco said he believed Morado was doing a good job.

Meanwhile, Gomez, who had won election in May 2017, said he wanted more time to determine whether he would consider seeking proposals for Morado’s job.

Morado, an attorney with the Brownsville firm of Roerig, Oliveira and Fisher, had served as city attorney since mid 2011.

After serving as city attorney from 1995 to 1997, Morado served as mayor from 1998 to 2002.

A San Benito native, Morado was President Bill Clinton’s nominee to replace U.S. District Judge Filemon Vela in 2000.

However, the nomination expired when Clinton left office in January 2001.