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County Auditor Arrested
Jun-28-07

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 Court.
 

 

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, Villalobos said.

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 recognizance bond.

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 handled.

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, Villalobos said.

Cameron County Commissioner David Garza said Yates’ arrest is, “unbelievable.”

“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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