By Darrell Todd Maurina
The Muleshoe City Council, responding to allegations of police abuse and racism raised by a council member, spent nearly three hours in closed session discussing the topic on Wednesday.
“We had healthy debate and healthy discussion with regard to the allegations of racism,” Mayor Victor Leal said. “We came out with a unified council that will work hard and try to do what is right.”
Councilman Juan Chavez, who brought his concerns to a council meeting on May 20, said all council members “agreed there’s a problem and we need to deal with it quick.”
“I didn’t hear anybody say anything good about our police department; there were nothing but complaints out of our whole council and the mayor,” Chavez said. “… But we never got the chief (Don Carter) to admit that there is anything wrong.”
Carter did not return telephone calls seeking comment on Wednesday.
Chavez said Muleshoe’s police department has been given eight weeks to come up with a plan to address council concerns, though Leal declined to confirm any timetable or mandates.
Chavez and Leal, in separate telephone conversations following Wednesday’s meeting, disagreed on several issues.
Chavez said police problems may not include racial bias against Hispanics but rather economic bias.
“There are about 10 whites who live on my side of town who get treated the same way, and there are a few Hispanics who live on (the mayor’s) side of town and they don’t get treated like that,” said Chavez, who is Hispanic. “They never bother the mayor, he’s got money.”
Leal, also Hispanic, said he strongly objected to Chavez’ statements. Leal said the council’s concerns about the police department are broader than racism, and that Chavez’ complaints about racial bias have not been substantiated.
“Probably the worst spokesman you could have for the Hispanic community is Councilman Chavez,” said Leal.
“I have to defend myself, and for him to say that I am economically advantaged and therefore the police don’t pay attention to me is completely baseless and groundless,” Leal said.
The mayor also said Chavez violated “the spirit” of the executive session by discussing details of the meeting. Leal said he would not discuss details of the closed session.
Councilman Cliff Black, who originally proposed the special session, could not be reached for comment.