South Texas Mayor, Registered Sex Offender, Banned From City Hall

The mayor of this South Texas town is a registered sex offender who can be arrested for going to City Hall, but he still doesn't plan to resign.

Mayor Lino Donato pleaded guilty last month to indecency counts involving two girls, and his plea deal required him to register as a sex offender for 20 years. But he received deferred adjudication, which isn't a conviction, so he can't be forced from office.

Donato is required to stay more than 1,000 feet from places where children congregate, and City Hall is "well within 200 feet" of that limit from the Atascosa Boxing Club and Youth Center, City Attorney Frank Garza said.

The mayor did not attend Tuesday's council meeting, the last of the year, and asked Mayor Pro Tem Roy Ybarra to preside. Donato said it was the first meeting he's missed in five years, but he reiterated Wednesday that he wouldn't resign.

Even if Donato skips all city meetings until his term expires in May 2009, Poteet has no attendance requirement with which to discipline him because it is a "general law" city, Garza said. Poteet is about 30 miles south of San Antonio.

Atascosa County adult probation officers checked the distance between the boxing club and City Hall with a tape measure and warned Donato that going there risked a violation, said former assistant district attorney Brandon Hudson, who is now in private practice.

"It's a huge issue," Hudson said. "The mayor of the city cannot attend city business because of his status as a registered sex offender."

Donato pleaded guilty Oct. 31 to two counts of indecency by exposure and no contest to one count of indecency by contact for incidents that occurred between 1996 and 2000. The plea cut short a trial on accusations that he exposed himself to two girls and improperly touched one of them.

He planned to resign at a meeting a week later, but he changed his mind and canceled the meeting, saying he wasn't guilty.

Councilman Larry Cantu said the mayor needs to resign, although the council can maintain a quorum if Donato misses the meetings.

"The people elected us to conduct business for the city," Cantu said. "It's not right for the citizens of Poteet."