Petition process involves judge; School board trustees in Texas can be removed - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Petition process involves judge; School board trustees in Texas can be removed

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Posted: Monday, September 23, 2019 1:00 pm

Despite an online petition urging the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees to remove Erasmo Castro from the board, the power to initiate removal proceedings rests with individuals petitioning a state district judge — and not with the school board.

Under Chapter 87 of the Texas Local Government Code, removal of a school board member can be initiated by petition to the judge of the state district court where the trustee resides.

The code lists 14 elected officials from district attorneys to county judges, sheriffs, county commissioners and justices of the peace who can potentially be removed from office. School board members of independent school districts are included.

One of the grounds for removal is intoxication. Castro was arrested Sept. 2 on charges of driving while intoxicated at 900 Morrison Road in Brownsville.

If such a petition were filed, the statute requires the district attorney to litigate the petition as a civil lawsuit. Additionally, “the district judge may temporarily suspend the officer and may appoint another person to perform the duties of the office” pending a civil trial of the allegations in the petition, according to the statute.

Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said to his knowledge no such petition has been filed calling for Castro’s ouster. He said such a petition, if filed, would have to be filed with Benjamin Euresti Jr., the presiding judge for Cameron County.

Saenz said he’s aware of the statute but that the petition method for removing a school board member has never been utilized in Cameron County during the 35 years he has been prosecuting cases in the county.

“I did some research, and I don’t find that it has been utilized recently anywhere in the state of Texas,” he said.

Notably Cameron County has a no-refusal policy for cases of driving while intoxicated, Saenz pointed out. The policy is in effect around the clock and not just on holiday weekends as in some counties, he said.

“Mr. Castro refused a traditional breath test, as is his right. But in my county, law enforcement is instructed to go farther, to find a district judge, do a search warrant, get it signed and do a blood draw, which is what we did in this case,” he said.

Thursday, the results were not it.

Cameron County has had a year-round no-refusal policy since 2016, Saenz said.

Meanwhile, a petition drive on change.org calling on the BISD school board to remove Castro had garnered 3,365 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

Castro said after he was released on bond following his arrest that he planned to “go through the process” of dealing with the DWI.

San Benito school board president Michael Vargas also is facing a petition drive to remove him from the board following his July 5 DWI arrest. As of Thursday, the petition on change.org had 247 signatures.

In Starr County, removal proceedings are underway utilizing the provisions of Chapter 87 to remove Daniel J. Garcia, a member of the Rio Grande City school board who is under indictment in a bribery case involving construction of a water plant in Weslaco.

Grounds for removing elected officials under the statute also include incompetence and/or official misconduct. The petition, filed in 229th state District Court in Rio Grande City, against Garcia cites his indictment as part of a 75-count federal indictment alleging the embezzlement of more than $4 million through fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and bribes.

glong@brownsvilleherald.com

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