Appellate court denies RGC school district case - Brownsville Herald: Valley

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Appellate court denies RGC school district case

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Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2019 9:00 pm

An appeals court dismissed a case filed by the members of the Rio Grande City school board that prevented another faction of the board from holding a meeting in May.

The Fourth Court of Appeals issued an order Wednesday morning dismissing the case.

“After considering the issues raised in the petition, this court concludes the petition is moot,” the justices stated in the opinion.

Board trustees Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez and Basilio “Bacho” Villarreal filed the petition with the appeals court on May 22 to prevent four other board members — Eleazar Velasquez, Dr. Daria Babineaux, Leticia O. Lopez and Daniel J. Gar-cia — from holding a meeting the following day.

The meeting scheduled for May 23, however, was just one of the attempts by the four board members to meet.

After not being able to hold a board meeting since March, visiting state District Judge Carlos Valdez ordered the board to meet on May 23.

Ramirez and Villarreal’s petition to the Fourth Court of Appeals sought to stay Valdez’s order, which it did, preventing the four board members from holding the meeting.

But the order did little to discourage them from meeting at a future date and, indeed, they proceeded to meet on May 28.

During that meeting, the four board members finalized the hiring of Vilma Garza as their new superintendent, the reorganization of the board, the termination of their attorney, Ruben Peña, and the hiring of a new attorney, Baltazar Salazar.

Peña called the meeting illegal and said interim Superintendent Roel Gonzalez had been instructed to remain in his position.

However, after about a week of uncertainty over who led the district — with both Gonzalez and Garza simultaneously working in superintendent capacities — the former handed the reins off to Garza and operations at the district appeared back to normal.

Salazar, the attorney that was hired by the board during the May 28 meeting, filed a motion to dismiss the case with the Fourth Court of Appeals, arguing the case was moot since it only applied to the scheduled May 23 meeting.

Still, Peña filed a motion on behalf of Ramirez and Villarreal opposing the dismissal of the case, arguing there were other issues that still needed to be considered — namely, the alleged “judicial interference “ by Valdez, the judge who ordered the board to meet on May 23.

“There is a question of separation of powers between the judicial branch and the executive branch,” Peña wrote in the motion.

The justices, however, didn’t address those issues in their opinion and agreed the petition was now moot, effectively ending the legal quarrel between the board members for now.

However, Ramirez issued a statement after the ruling that left the door open for future legal challenges.

“The appellate court was asked to intervene to stop a previous meeting from taking place, which it did. The meeting did not happen and, therefore, the appellate court held that the issue was moot,” Ramirez stated. “The court was not asked to address the legality of future meetings, an issue that may still be litigated as improper.”

Of the situation, Salazar said that the school district needed to move forward.

“The court has spoken,” Salazar said. “We’re going to move forward with the school district — we have a new superintendent, a new board president — I look forward to working with working with the whole board.”

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