BISD board attorney confronted at meeting

In an unusual public discussion of a top district employee’s status, Brownsville Independent School District trustees decided Tuesday night to table the matter of board attorney Baltazar Salazar’s employment until their Oct 6 meeting.

Trustee Laura Perez-Reyes placed an item on the agenda calling for discussion, consideration and possible action to terminate Salazar’s $300,000 contract, questioning whether the district was receiving the representation it deserved for the fee it was paying and claiming that Salazar has three felony convictions dating to the mid-1980s.

The item was supported by board member Eddie Garcia, the trustee appointed to serve the remainder of former trustee Erasmo Castro’s term. Castro resigned over charges of driving while intoxicated but is running for a different seat on the board in the November election. Garcia, a retired Brownsville police officer, is seeking election to Position 7 on the board, the seat currently held by Sylvia Atkinson, who is under indictment on bribery allegations. Perez-Reyes is not seeking re-election but is the Democratic candidate for Cameron County district clerk.

During the meeting, it emerged that the charges in question involved insufficient-funds checks.

Salazar countered that two of the charges were dismissed “for want of prosecution” and that the third was dismissed after he was granted judicial clemency. He provided documentation to The Brownsville Herald.

“I do not have any convictions. It is disappointing that Mrs. Laura Perez-Reyes wants to be a District Clerk and does not even understand or know how to find correct information from the District Clerk’s office,” Salazar said in a statement to The Herald.

Salazar made reference to the dismissals during the meeting and also said he is a member in good standing of the State Bar of Texas, holds a valid teaching certificate and is licensed to carry a handgun in Texas, all of which carry a requirement of no felony convictions.

During the discussion, Perez-Reyes referred to the alleged convictions as crimes of “moral turpitude” and said that she had noticed a pattern of him supporting board members in the majority but not in the minority. She said Salazar is politically active, had started a political action committee against her, and had made a $20,000 contribution against her. She said she became aware of the situation last April.

“Anybody can turn a blind eye. I just felt the need at this point to put this on the record,” she said.

Trustee Sylvia Atkinson, who once ran BISD’s personnel department, said the matters in question had come up at the time Salazar was under consideration to be hired “and he was cleared for employment.”

Salazar later said he has not created PACs, only contributed to them. He said he was hired in April 2013 at a salary of $240,000, that his contract was extended and he received raises in 2017 and 2019, and that Perez-Reyes voted in favor of both extensions and raises.

Several board members suggested it would be better to leave the matter of Salazar’s employment to the board that will be elected in November, when five seats will be decided.

Ultimately, board members indicated they did not have enough information to make a decision and in a unanimous vote tabled the matter to the October meeting to give Salazar time to respond and Perez-Reyes to provide documentation.