Cobos says his resignation is not at hand; opinion released
by Sito Negron and David Crowder
Posted on December 5, 2008
An El Paso print publication quoted El Paso County Judge Anthony Cobos today as saying he has no plans to resign following Newspaper Tree's report Thursday that his chief of staff had requested a legal opinion on the procedure for resigning and appointing a new county judge.
The opinion was released late Friday. To view it, click on the link below this story.
Cobos told the print publication that his office requested the opinion from County Attorney Jose Rodriguez because of persistent rumors that he intended to resign and because he had heard that El Paso County Commissioner Veronica Escobar had asked for a similar opinion.
NPT reported on the requests in an article yesterday. [link]
El Paso County Commissioner Luis Sarinana told NPT that Cobos' chief of staff, Jaime Perez, said he had requested a legal opinion from both Rodriguez and the Texas attorney general’s office on whether Cobos could resign and still vote on the appointment of a successor to complete the two years remaining in his term.
That request would be the first hard evidence to go with the persistent rumor that Cobos intends to leave his office this month.
However, Sarinana said Cobos told him this week that he intends to complete the two years of his term.
Escobar said the assertion that Perez asked for a legal opinion because she had done so is untrue and absurd.
For one thing, she said, no one outside the county attorney’s office knew of her request.
“How did they (Cobos and Perez) know what I asked for?” she said.
For another, Perez apparently said nothing about Escobar’s request on Wednesday when he briefed county Commissioner Luis Sarinana on the response from Rodriguez's office to the questions Perez himself had asked.
Cobos also told the Times he sought the opinion from Rodriguez hoping it might somehow disclose the source of the rumors that he was going to resign.
Escobar said that is absurd as well.
“It seems to me that the scheme to unearth the source of the rumors would have been disclosed to Commissioner Sarinana in his candid conversation with Jaime Perez, but it wasn’t,” Escobar said.
Newspaper Tree interviewed Sarinana thoroughly about what he knew regarding the possibility of Cobos resigning and what Perez had told him about the legal opinion.
Sarinana didn’t say he was told that the only reason Perez or Cobos had requested the legal opinion was because Escobar had asked for it.
Newspaper Tree reached Perez by telephone Thrusday, and he abruptly hung up without saying a word when told NPT had just interviewed Sarinana about their conversation.
In addition, Sarinana said Perez disclosed that he had also asked for an attorney general’s opinion regarding the process to be followed in the resignation of a county judge.
Newspaper Tree is requesting copies of all documents pertaining to the requests by Cobos’ office and Escobar under the Texas Public Information Act.
Why Cobos might consider quitting a $98,000 job is unclear, but he is a known target in the FBI's public corruption investigation that has seen nine guilty pleas and four indictments in the past 19 months.
"Frankly, it's not like he’s the most active county judge, so he earns $100,000 a year for doing little to nothing," Escobar said. "Why would he leave such a plum position?"
In related news, NPT last week reported that Cobos had gone to Washington, D.C. and had met with U.S. Reps. Silvestre Reyes and Ciro Rodriguez. [link]
Cobos, in various reports, including one in an El Paso print publication, said he was lobbying on county business.
NPT spoke with one of the county's federal lobbyists Thursday. The lobbyist, Isaac Reyes, accompanied Cobos for parts of his trip last week and helped set up the itinerary for this week's visit by Cobos. He said that that Cobos discussed county business when the two were together.
"What I helped Judge Cobos with last week and also this week was meetings with representatives from the El Paso delegation dealing with the stimulus bill," Reyes said. President-elect Barack Obama has made economic stimulus a priority and has discussed the possibility of a massive public works program to that end.
Reyes, no relation to El Paso's congressman, said that he was not in the room during the meeting with U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, but was in the room at the meeting with U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, whose San Antonio district includes a small portion of Far East El Paso County. At the latter, only county business was discussed, Isaac Reyes said.
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