WASHINGTON — A Dallas judge blocked a hearing in which the League of United Latin American Citizens board was set to vote on a proposed impeachment for its President Domingo García.
On Friday, Dallas County District Judge Maricela Moore issued the temporary restraining order, blocking the impeachment hearing from proceeding. Still, some LULAC board members attended a Saturday meeting to decide the next steps, arguing the organization’s democratic process was at risk.
Members said the use of a temporary restraining order in this instance is rare in the history of the organization. Around 20 members attended the meeting in the downtown Hamilton Hotel.
“What is happening in D.C. is completely illegal and unconstitutional,” said García, who didn’t attend the meeting and presided over the monthly Chorizo and Menudo event in Dallas, a gathering of community leaders and elected officials.
In July, a different Dallas County district judge issued a temporary restraining order to suspend the election of a new LULAC president, scheduled for the final day of this group’s annual convention in Puerto Rico. The order came the night before the election without prior notice from the council.
As a result, 21 council members in Texas, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, and Puerto Rico sent the LULAC treasurer a petition to impeach García, alleging that he violated the LULAC constitution.
By Saturday, the board had drafted 77 articles of impeachment.
The latest restriction order cites that “defendants, in holding the upcoming October 1 Meeting (as defined in the Application), have and continue to engage in a fraudulent and illicit scheme to place LULAC under the irreversible control of a foreign political party in violation of LULAC’s internal governing rules.”
Members allege García neglected his duties by suspending the LULAC election and several national and state members without authorization from the executive board.
In the legal effort to suspend the national elections in July, García and supporters said the election had been rigged by the establishment of additional councils in Puerto Rico to sway the results.
About 300 councils were created in the three months before the election pouring in over $700,000 from the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party in Puerto Rico, according to the lawsuit.
“The PNP (New Progressive Party) wants to spend more than $1 million to take over LULAC, which is completely against the constitution of LULAC. We are a nonpartisan organization. They are playing very dirty,” said García on Saturday morning.
García, a former Texas state representative and Dallas City Council member, has served as president of LULAC since 2018. In response to the impeachment petition, he filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit in early September against LULAC executive director Sindy Benavides and treasurer Paul Martínez.
“I am suing Sindy and Paul for defamation and a conspiracy against the laws of the United States in terms of using money from PACs [political action committees]. They tried to take LULAC,” García said in filing the lawsuit.
Aside from claims that García improperly suspended elections, he is accused of indefinitely suspending Benavides on July 30 without the required authorization from the board of directors.
He later ordered the immediate temporary suspension of vice presidents Ralina Cardona, Andrés Rodríguez, Elsie Valdés-Ramos, and Ivonne Quiñones-Lanzo, as well as of Illinois state director Maggie Rivera, on Aug. 3.
Article 8 of the LULAC Constitution says the president “needs the board of directors’ approval to suspend a member.”
During the discussion, board members said the ongoing legal action with García has had a dramatic impact on LULAC’s ability to conduct business and overall trust in the organization.
“A lot of members are really discouraged,” said Cardona, national vice president for the Northeast, who was at the board meeting. “We’re a civil rights organization, and here you have twice now our voice, our vote, silenced.”
She said a particular frustration is how García and his supporters have seemingly targeted Puerto Rican members and often women inside leadership to exclude or reduce their power within the organization.
“It breaks my heart that the assumption is us versus them,” Cardona said. “That’s what we are fighting outside of LULAC. Why are we fighting that inside of LULAC?”
The latest TRO expires on Oct. 14, and a hearing will be held on that same date at 11:00 a.m. in the Dallas County District Court.
The future of LULAC will be again disputed Oct. 21 and 22 in Washington, D.C., with another board meeting.
Reporters Imelda García and María Ramos contributed from Dallas