Brawl in the family

LULAC's show of support for Dr. Yvonne Gonzalez hides a bitter feud within the ranks

"We learned from last year," Rincon says. "Last year, we didn't even break even. It costs a lot of money to put on these events."

While Rincon would not disclose the costs of hosting the event, he did say that any scholarship funds were to come from concessions.

Rincon says that some councils erroneously believe they have a right to share in profits from the concert series just because they're also members of LULAC. It doesn't work that way, he says. Rincon says that Saldana approached him at one of the Wednesday-night concerts about "getting a piece of the action." Rincon says Council 4496 is simply miffed because it needs money. "It's kind of ridiculous," he says.

But he doesn't believe the district--and particularly Saldana--has done anything to deserve a cut of Council 100's concert series. "Where were you when I needed you, Gehrig?" Rincon asks rhetorically.

Neither is Saldana entitled to information about the Hispanic Institute for Progress. "I don't believe they're entitled to an accounting," says Adelfa Callejo. "Every council is autonomous. So what's [Saldana's] authority in asking for an accounting?"

Callejo believes that Saldana and Carrizales are personally attacking Council 100's Hector Flores, but doesn't understand why. "Mr. Flores is indefatigable when it comes to Hispanics," Callejo says. "And he is one person for whom I will vouch. The only person that appears to have a problem with Hector Flores is Gehrig Saldana," she adds. "I'll tell you this. If somebody accused me of malfeasance, they'd be sued immediately."

Callejo says that Saldana and Council 4496 have "done some things for which they have been criticized" as well. "I heard that they went and used the LULAC name to support the person running against John Wiley Price," she says. According to its constitution, LULAC is prohibited from endorsing partisan candidates.

"All the councils are charged with the mission of protecting our community," Callejo says. "[4496] has acted like education is their turf," she says, adding that education is a national issue.

Callejo will concede that Saldana and Carrizales are committed and do good work, but believes they're too new at all this. "They're younger than we are," she says, "and one of our goals is to nurture the younger leaders." But instead of forming coalitions, she says, these guys want to divide. Council 100 members, Callejo firmly states, are "men of integrity."

"[Saldana] is trying to make a storm out of a cup of water," adds Michael Gonzales, Callejo's nephew and president of another LULAC chapter, Council 4601. He goes on to describe Saldana as a "kid in a candy store" who tries to "eat Jell-O with a knife," referring to what he perceives as Saldana's overblown reaction to nothing. "This organization is not a playpen," Gonzales says. "It's here to serve the needs of many people."

While Saldana waits for his information, LULAC 100 continues to use its Hispanic Institute for Progress for other fundraising efforts. In June, LULAC's District III sent a proposal to Levi-Strauss asking for $15,000 to support a youth leadership program. The money would be funneled through HIP, and the donation tax-exempt. The proposal was sent in the name of the entire LULAC District III--including 4496, according to records obtained by the Observer. But the entire district has not yet approved of the project, so it's on hold.

The Levi-Strauss funds, if they're granted, are to be used in conjunction with a building being donated by the Southland Corp. The building--located at the corner of Edgefield and 12th in Oak Cliff--is the site of the first 7-Eleven store in Dallas and will be known as the LULAC Social Services Center.

About a year ago, Council 100 began dealing with Janie Camacho, consumer and Hispanic affairs manager for Southland. Camacho admits that she was not fully aware of the hierarchy within LULAC, and that when she dealt with Council 100--namely Hector Flores, Greg Vaquera, and Rene Martinez--she thought she was dealing with all of LULAC.

At a September 13 meeting of District III, Camacho became painfully aware that Council 100 is not all of LULAC. Some of the six councils represented at the meeting didn't even know what the project entailed. "What is this building you're talking about?" asked Ruben Garcia, president of Granbury Council 4582. "What's it going to be used for?"

Leonard Chaires of Council 272--Dallas' oldest council--said the district was presented with "a laundry list of world events written by Sambrano," referring to the somewhat ambitious proposal to Levi-Strauss outlined by Richard Sambrano of Council 100. "They want to save world hunger out of this building," Carrizales added. "We're going to have to taper down."

Others expressed resentment that the Southland project was not made public sooner. "They [Council 100] had the information for one full year, and we knew nothing about it," says Mary Hernandez, the Grand Prairie Council 4576 president.

"In all fairness, I think there are some communication problems," Camacho said. "Y'all aren't talking amongst yourselves."

Camacho further warned that if LULAC District III could not get its house in order, it might lose the building. "If you don't take it, the NAACP will," Camacho said.

The dispute over Council 100 scholarship funds is taking place amidst a backdrop of similar allegations against Greg Vaquera, who is director of LULAC District III and affiliated with Council 100.

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