County Auditor Arrested
BROWNSVILE -- Cameron County Auditor Mark Yates has been arrested
by special investigators with the DA's office and Sheriff's deputies but
former Cameron County District Attorney Yolanda De Leon says the
arrest in an 'obscene political move'.
The charges allege
the long-time auditor violated state competitive bidding laws by
renewing an insurance contract without approval from Commissioners
In September, when the county's insurance was up for renewal, Yates was
supposed to seek the best deal for the county before making a final
decision. However District Attorney Armando Villalobos says the
investigation shows Yates took it upon himself to just renew the million
dollar contract with United of Omaha Life Insurance which ended up
costing the county $600,000 more in premiums.
Only contracts worth $25,000 or less can be renewed without soliciting
bids. All others must go through the competitive bidding process,
Yates didn’t speak Monday when brought before Justice of the Peace
Linda Salazar. Dressed in a county-issued orange jumpsuit and
sandals, he was quietly arraigned and given a $2,500 personal
The county’s state district judges met on Tuesday afternoon after
talking to Yates and made the decision to place the long time auditor on
administrative leave with pay pending an investigation. Villalobos told
reporters the DA’s office will continue to investigate the case and look
into the brokers who were involved, and any prior contracts that Yates
The offense is a Class B Misdemeanor with punishment of up to 180 days
in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. If convicted, Yates would be
ineligible to work for any government agency for the next 10 years,
Cameron County Commissioner David Garza said Yates’ arrest is,
“Of all county employees, he would be the least I would think would be
arrested,” the Precinct 3 commissioner said. “But as I’ve told you
before … nothing surprises me in county government anymore.”
"The facts show that
Yates’ arrest was a staged “political move,” said Former Cameron County
District Attorney Yolanda De Leon who has been hired to represent Yates.
De Leon served as Cameron
County district attorney from 1997 to 2004. She lost her bid for
re-election in the 2004 primaries to Villalobos.
De Leon filed a writ of
habeas corpus with the county’s state district courts requesting the
charges be dropped against Yates be-cause he did not violate the
government code stated on his arrest affidavit.
According to the writ, the government code that Yates allegedly violated
requests competitive bids if the contract is for the con-struction,
repair, or renovation of a structure, road, highway or other improvement
or addition to real property.
"The arrest was an
obscene misuse of power and authority, ” De Leon said.
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