Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Time to move on

Well, its about dang time.

Back to raising strawberries instead of questions now.

Poteet City Council removes indicted mayor
Sara Inés Calderón - Express-News

POTEET — Hours after Lino Donato was released on bond from the Atascosa County Jail, the City Council took just 10 minutes to vote unanimously to oust the already convicted sex offender from the mayor's office.

Mayor Pro Tem Fred Catala becomes the acting mayor of Poteet, said City Attorney Frank Garza, and Catala presided over the speedy meeting in which the council declared Donato's seat vacant after he logged three consecutive absences.
The issue of a permanent replacement will be taken up at the council's next regular meeting Oct. 21. Catala said the council needed to “chew on it for a while.”

Garza said the council has several options. The mayor's office may remain vacant until municipal elections in May, or it may be filled by the mayor pro tem, another council member or an interested city resident, he said.

Earlier Monday, Donato was released on $200,000 bond after his arrest last week for the second time in two years on child sex charges. He did not attend the council meeting nor could he be reached by phone or at his place of business.

The most recent indictments allege that on Aug. 15, 2007, Donato touched a girl younger than 14 on her genitals and breasts, resulting in a first-degree felony charge of aggravated sexual assault and a second-degree felony charge of indecency with a child by contact.
Donato is also accused of kissing the girl two days later, and is charged with the third-degree felony of attempted indecency with a child by contact.

Donato's attorney, Gary Churak, is currently representing him in his appeal on the first set of charges. He said Donato maintains he is also innocent of the new charges.
The indictments are unrelated to charges Donato pleaded guilty to in October 2007 — two counts of indecency by exposure. He also pleaded no contest to one count of indecency by contact and accepted deferred adjudication and probation.

In addition to having to register as a sex offender, Donato was prohibited from going within 1,000 feet of places where children congregate. Consequently, he has been absent from City Council meetings since then; City Hall is within 1,000 feet of the city library.
Before Donato was arrested last week, Catala had said the council would consider removing him in September. Donato's term would have expired in May 2009.

Separately, District Attorney Rene Peña filed a petition in August asking a judge to remove Donato for failing to attend meetings and thus not performing his mayoral duties. Peña said the council's actions would not affect his pursuit of the mayor's removal or a trial on the new charges.
A pretrial hearing on the petition is scheduled for Nov. 17.

At the end of Monday's meeting, Councilman Allen Buck summed up the feelings of many residents who attended, saying the city is ready to move on from the controversy.
“It is time that the City of Poteet get off the radar scope as being highlighted with problems,” he said to the crowd's applause. “This is an outstanding city.”