POSTED: Friday, May 13, 2011 - 4:29pm
UPDATED: Monday, May 16, 2011 - 1:18pm
SOCORRO - After months of infighting, finger-pointing, and petitions, it's now up to the voters to decide the future of Socorro's city government.
A referendum on tomorrow's ballot would oust sitting mayor Willie Gandara. Ever since he was indicted on federal corruption charges, some citizens - and even city council members - have called for him to step down. But Gandara says it's up to the people of Socorro to decide.
"Socorro will be in the same hole and will not accomplish anything if he remains in office," said Pilo Morales. He's determined to get Gandara out of office, and has signs plastered outside his home in Socorro.
"He has been indicted for corruption so what do you expect from him?" Morales asked.
Gandara is accused of using his position to secure contracts when he was a trustee for the Socorro Independent School District. But he says he hopes the residents of Socorro will keep him in office.
"I've been here all my life, practically, you know I'm sixty years old, take 37 years from that," Gandara told us.
Back in December it was decided that the future of the mayor's seat would go to a vote. And it's taken its toll, but Gandara says he welcomes the referendum.
"I thought about it and then I said, 'You know what?' Let's go for it," he said. He said he wants to cut down on what he calls wasteful spending, and he gave us this example.
"This is a flier they put out at the cost of the taxpayer's money," he said, showing us a city-mailed "Election Fact Sheet." City spokesman David Garcia said it's modeled after the fact for for the Socorro bond issue.
A portion of it reads: "If you vote for the removal of the mayor, you as a voter, make sure any one, not just the mayor, can be removed if they do things that get them arrested and damage the reputation and public image of Socorro. Other cities do not allow this type of negative publicity that can hurt their city's ability to attract economic development and tourism. Socorro residents deserve the same respect."
So despite the strong words from those who wants to oust him, Gandara is leaving his fate as mayor to the ones who hit the polls.
"Hopefully, I will still be there mayor Monday, and if not god bless us," Gandara said.
If he is voted out, the 'mayor pro tem,' Jesse Gandara - Willie's nephew - would run the meetings and voters would elect another mayor in November.