By John Waters
Due to a 1991 federal felony conviction, Cynthia Salas, a candidate for Brewster County Commissioner Precinct 4, will be declared ineligible to run for that office, the Gazette learned from county Democratic Party Chair Mary Bell Lockhart.
Salas, who is currently city secretary for the City of Alpine, was formerly an elected member of the Alpine City Council as well. (In May of 2014 Salas was elected to represent Ward 2, defeating incumbent Mike Davidson by 114 to 39.)
Documents obtained by the Gazette under a Texas Public Information Act request filed with Brewster County Attorney detail a 1991 guilty plea by Salas of one count of “Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud” on January 30, 1991.
Brewster County Attorney Steve Houston confirmed that the decades-old felony precludes Salas from holding public office in Texas.
According to Sam Taylor with the Texas Secretary of State in Austin, Texas Code 141.001 (4) is explicit that a candidate must “have not been finally convicted of a felony from which the person has not been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities.”
Salas remains on the ballot, and, according to state law, will be declared ineligible to hold office only after the polls close in the primary election on March 6. Under state law, the presiding officer of the final canvassing authority makes the formal declaration of ineligibility; Lockhart told the Gazette she will make the declaration at that time.
County Attorney Houston referenced Texas Code 145.003, under the Administrative Declaration of Ineligibility section, which outlines the procedure to be followed to declare Salas ineligible.
Before a candidate can be placed on the ballot, he/she must submit a notarized Application for a Place on the [Democratic, Republican, or other] Party Primary Ballot. On that application, he or she must “swear that I will support and defend The Constitution and laws and of the State of Texas. I am a citizen of the United States eligible to hold such office under the Constitution and laws of the United States and laws of this state. I have not been finally convicted of a felony for which I have not been pardoned or had my full rights of citizenship restored by other official action.”
In documents obtained from the Brewster County Attorney’s Office under a public information act request, on December 6, 2017 Salas submitted the signed and notarized application to Lockhart, and it was accepted.
According to Salas’ resume (viewable on the City of Alpine’s website), the city secretary has “intimate knowledge of how the City Council works” and of “managing city elections, understanding and complying with Texas and Alpine law,” and has “taken election management training and am certified to conduct elections for Alpine.” It remains unclear if that certification to conduct elections is valid.
Salas issued this statement to the Gazette, “This happened 26yrs ago and was a big mistake on my part. I guess I should have delved a little deeper into eligibility requirements, but unfortunately I did not. I do regret that I let down the people that have supported me in my political endeavors. For that I am deeply sorry. I am actively looking into my options in resolving this issue and hope to continue to play an active roll in the city I love and call home.”
Salas will be the second candidate in this election to be declared ineligible. Former Alpine City Council member Mike Davidson was declared ineligible for his bid in the Brewster County Precinct 2 primary election after local Democratic Party officials determined Davidson is registered to vote in Alpine on South 13th Street.