In a unanimous vote the three RGCCISD board members present at Tuesday’s meeting voted in favor of a settlement in the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former police chief of the district Hernan “Nune” Garza III. Said settlement included paying $400,000, lawyer fees and reinstating Hernan Garza III to his position. RGCCISD board president Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez abstained from voting since he was named in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit filed in 2016 alleges that his termination was politically motivated specifically against Team Change. Garza who is also an elected official and serves as a part of the City of Rio Grande City Council was and is tied to the opposing political team.
The troubles for Garza started in February of 2016 when the then board moved to suspend him. Board members; Daniel Garcia, Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez, Dr. Norberto Cantu, Judith Solis, Ruben Klein, and Noe “Dickie” Gonzalez Jr. suspended and terminated Garza after he allegedly failed to properly investigate several cases of an inappropriate relationships between educators and students.
On at least two of the cases the educator received some sort of punishment. The cases varied in severity. In one of the cases accusations included a coach engaging in a sexual act with a student. Although it is proper to mention the student was of legal age of consent. The coach in question was indicted on a charge of improper relationship between educator and student. He entered a pretrial trial diversion contract. Upon meeting the terms set in the contract, the charge against the coach was dismissed in March of 2017. A second case against an educator having inappropriate relationship resulted in a plea and the educator received probation for the charge. At the time the Office of the District Attorney had reason to believe a report had not been completed in a timely manner and controversy ensued when the Police did not believe it was necessary to document at least one of the incidents. The issue was severe enough that Texas Education Agency or TEA took action against the certification of then Superintendent Joel Trigo. He later unsuccessfully appealed the decision against his license.
Garza III who had been employed with the district for over 15 years sued under the allegations that text messages between Superintendent Joel Trigo and a board member proved political retaliation. The case was still in litigation but as stated at the school board meeting the new legal counsel for RGCCISD recommended to settle. An email sent to the attorney Ruben Pena requesting a statement went unreplied by Friday night. In other media outlets his statements feature the settlement as a cost saving measure. That if had won the case it would end up costing the district a higher cost. For the district payment could come out of the district funds since the insurance provider, Texas Association of Public Schools Property and Liability Fund or TAPS declared bankruptcy.
The change is expected to take effect Monday with current Police Chief Trinidad Lopez being moved to another department.
Board members not present at the meeting, Daria “Dr. B” Babineaux, Daniel J. Garcia, and Eleazar Velasquez released a statement on social media
“To The Citizens of RGCCISD:
As fellow board members and individuals who asked for the support of our community as Kid’s Choice, we decided not to attend today’s Regular Scheduled RGCCISD Board Meeting.
The agenda for today’s meeting was infested with unethical agenda items for discussion and illegalities. We are PROUD RGCCISD School Board Members but we are also business owners and holders of professional licensing. The agenda items for discussion this evening not only jeopardize the district, but also us as individuals. We cannot incur or be part of a legal mess brought upon by unscrupulous individuals.
Team Hope refuses to follow ethics and at times law when making school board decisions. We have already submitted a letter to state agencies with a complaint about the ludicrous nature of today’s agenda.
For US: Eleazar Velazquez, Danny Garcia, and Dr B—Kids do COME FIRST! We truly HOPE better days are in RGCCISD’s future.”
In another statement posted on social media questions that two of the three that voted have times to the RGC City Council where Hernan Garza III serves as a council member. Noe Castillo is currently occupied as Police Chief for the Rio Grande City Police Department. The husband of Leticia “Letty” Lopez serves as the municipal judge but attorney Ruben Pena stated that it would not hold value according to case law.