December 17, 2010 at 1:00 am

Texas board fires Mercado following indictments

Victor Mercado )

San Antonio — The Bexar Metropolitan Water District board Thursday night swiftly fired the utility's general manager, Victor Mercado, indicted the day before in a bid-rigging case in Detroit.

Mercado's last payday will be today, according to board lawyer Mark Sanchez. The board voted unanimously and appointed a three-member staff team to replace Mercado temporarily.

Mercado was indicted in Detroit on charges of racketeering, extortion and obstruction of justice while he was chief of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department until 2008. The charges are part of a wide-ranging investigation of corruption in the administration of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

The BexarMet board cited four reasons for firing Mercado: conduct involving fraud; willful, deliberate and grossly negligent conduct that has resulted in widespread and pervasive negative publicity against BexarMet; habitual neglect of duty; and failure to comply with policies.

"Beginning with his interview for the open position of general manager and continuing through yesterday's indictment, the board concluded that Mr. Mercado had engaged in a pattern of misinformation, obfuscation and outright mischaracterization regarding his suitability to serve as general manager and his involvement in this corruption investigation," Sanchez said.

"The board deemed that this pattern of conduct rose to the level of fraud."

Mercado was in Florida on business and didn't attend the meeting Thursday night.

His staff said he wasn't expected back in the office until Monday.

Neither Mercado nor his lawyer, Martin Crandall, returned phone calls or e-mails.

No warrant for Mercado's arrest has been issued.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit said it is arranging for him to appear in court next month.