BISD attorney escapes removal

Brownsville Independent School District board attorney Baltazar Salazar got a reprieve Thursday night when the trustee who proposed his ouster asked to have discussion and possible action on his proposed removal taken off the agenda.

Board member Laura Perez-Reyes had placed an item on the board’s Sept. 1 meeting agenda to terminate Salazar. At the meeting, the board tabled the item until its Oct. 6 meeting to allow Salazar an opportunity to respond to accusations that he had three felony convictions, which disqualified him from serving as counsel to BISD.

A few hours before Thursday’s special-called meeting, Perez-Reyes asked to have the item removed from the agenda after it had been posted, BISD sources said. Perez-Reyes did not attend the meeting.

As Thursday’s meeting began, an attempt to remove the item from the agenda failed.

Trustee Sylvia Atkinson opposed pulling the item from the agenda before the meeting began, saying the public deserved to hear what happened and that for discussion to be part of the official record the item should stay on the agenda.

Trustee Drue Brown also urged leaving the item on the agenda.

“The problem is that some serious accusations were made out in public. It has been an issue in the public. I think this item should stay on the agenda so there can be a few comments made,” Brown said.

Trustee Philip Cowen then withdrew his support for the item and suggested asking Salazar whether he wanted it discussed in public. Salazar said he did.

“I feel like the truth has to come out and the truth is I did not violate the Texas Education Code. I’m not a convicted felon and I did not lie to the school district. If they want to put it back on the agenda for October, my position is going to be the same.”

At Cowen’s suggestion, the board then approved the agenda as posted, changed the order of the day to consider the Salazar item first and incorporated the discussion that had already taken place.

Superintendent Rene Gutierrez confirmed that at the board’s direction he had independent attorney Kevin O’Hanlon review the accusations against Salazar, as well as Salazar’s documentation. He said O’Hanlon found no Texas Education Code violations by Salazar. There was no further discussion.

“It is clear that there was a very serious accusation, that I had three felony convictions, and now it is confirmed through independent counsel, Mr. Kevin O’hanlon, what I have said all along, there is no felony conviction,” Salazar said in a statement to The Brownsville Herald on Friday.

“I never lied to the BISD, and there was no violation of the Texas Education Code. I have provided documentation to the Board supporting my qualifications as an attorney, certified teacher, and also provide the board a certified copy of my September 3, 2020 DPS criminal background check which shows there are no felony convictions. The most important thing is that the truth came out and the truth is that I am not a convicted felon, I did not violate the Texas Education Code, and I did not lie to the school district.”

glong@brownsvilleherald.com