By HEATHER CATHLEEN COX
RIO HONDO – District Court Judge Ben Euresti has appointed Edmund Cyganiewicz of Brownsville to be attorney pro-tem in the Cameron County District Attorney’s domestic violence case against longtime Rio Hondo City Commissioner Joseph “Joe” Lopez.
Cyganiewicz plans to begin work on his case by contacting the alleged victim. “I have to meet with alleged victim, and go from there,” he said.
Rio Hondo Police Department officer Katheryn Medrano recently responded to a call from Lopez’s wife about an incident in which the Place 5 Commissioner’s spouse accused her husband of using his arm to hold her down and/or choke her. Although news of the matter broke Monday, July 7, it remains unclear when the incident actually occurred.
The City of Rio Hondo promptly forwarded the case to the DA’s office. “Lopez was indicted, and the case was transferred to (Cyganiewicz) because Lopez was an employee here,” said Public Information Officer Melissa Zamora of the DA’s office on Tuesday.
Because Rio Hondo is a general law city without a charter, a specifiable procedure for how this accusation will affect Lopez’s seat on the Commission remains unclear. Regarding the topic, Mayor Gus Olivarez said, “I don’t believe there’s a (city) policy with reference to that. We’ve been doing a little research though.”
Expanding upon whether the City would take action with regard to Lopez’s current place on the Commission, Olivarez said, “The way I look at it, this is only an accusation against (Lopez). We don’t know the facts. He has not been indicted.”
However, Zamora has confirmed that Lopez was indeed indicted.
According to RHPD Chief Weldon Matlock, Lopez was never arrested or detained. Matlock stated, “The (domestic violence) incident had happened prior to the date of the call.” He further expanded, saying, “That call was (in reference to) a verbal disturbance” and not physical abuse or violence.
Although the San Benito News filed an official request for public information in this incident, no such documentation has been provided as of press time on Tuesday.
Concerning the incident report’s delayed release, Olivarez said, “The city manager has other things he’s working on. This is not the only thing he’s working on. There is process that we have. This has to go through the (city) attorney, the whole nine yards… Attorneys are reviewing what information (the City will) submit.”
Rio Hondo City Attorney Eddie Lucio III, who also serves as a State Representative, emphasized that Rio Hondo is “a small city, where most business is done over the phone,” and several of the City’s officials and/or commissioners prefer not to commute electronically. This is one explanation Lucio offered when asked about the delayed release of the incident report.
Mayor Olivarez said, “The City, at this time, doesn’t have anything to say. We don’t have any information to release. In no way is the City trying to prevent information from (going) out.”
When asked why City officials have remained so tight-lipped regarding public information, Lucio said, “(Officials) are trying to get the information. They are being extra-conscious before releasing (facts) to the media. After initial review, all they have is the incident report.”
Lopez’s legal counsel has not been identified at this time. Though many attempts were made, Lopez was unavailable for comment as of press time.