Debate flares at PISD over superintendent’s future
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A special meeting of the Pearsall ISD school board broke down at times into chaos Monday evening, November 7, amid claims that trustees were seeking to fire PISD Superintendent Dr. Nobert Rodriguez and had already sought a replacement.
After nearly two hours of dispute over alleged violations of the Texas Government Code, trustees voted to authorize a third party to investigate employment concerns related to the superintendent and have those results presented to the board at a later date.
A pair of relatives spoke on behalf of the superintendent during the public comment section of the meeting. Both cited his track record at the district, his achievements, grants he has secured, the $12.2 million bond for campus improvements, and praised his character.
PISD Trustee Eulogio “Logie” Rodriguez sought to make a comment but the district legal counsel said questions could be answered in closed-session attorney consultation.
Trustees initially withdrew behind closed doors for what the agenda described as “attorney consultation regarding legal issues related to the superintendent evaluation.” Supt. Rodriguez’ attorney, former PISD School Board President and local lawyer Sylvia Rodriguez, claimed the move was in violation of the Texas Government Code.
Texas Government Code 551.071 relates to attorney consultation in a closed meeting. It authorizes a governmental body to consult with its attorney in an executive session to seek advice on legal matters. It provides as follows: “A governmental body may not conduct a private consultation with its attorney except when the governmental body seeks the advice of its attorney about pending or contemplated litigation or a settlement offer; or on a matter in which the duty of the attorney to the governmental body under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of Texas clearly conflicts with this chapter. This provision implements the attorney-client privilege, an attorney’s duty to preserve the confidences of a client. It allows a governmental body to meet in executive session with its attorney when it seeks the attorney’s advice with respect to pending or contemplated litigation or settlement offers, including pending or contemplated administrative proceedings governed by the Administrative Procedure Act.”
Upon reconvening in open session, Trustee Tommy Navarro made a motion to seek a third-party investigation into Supt. Rodriguez’ employment but Trustee Rochelle Camacho took issue with the motion, saying it wasn’t what was discussed in closed session. Following additional verbal sparring between Atty. Rodriguez and the board’s legal counsel, PISD trustees Mari Benavides, Louisa Martinez, Marco Reyes, Tommy Navarro and Sandra Waldrum retired into closed session once again to consult with their attorney.
Trustees Camacho and Rodriguez did not participate in the closed-door session.
After returning once more, Navarro made his motion despite protests from Atty. Rodriguez, who repeated claims that board members were in violation of the Texas Government Code and that Dr. Rodriguez was still under contract and that his position had been offered to someone else.
Benavides seconded the motion with trustees Martinez, Reyes and Waldrum voting in favor. Camacho and Rodriguez did not participate in the vote.
Board President Reyes then hastily adjourned the meeting. Camacho said she did not get time to vote and wanted to abstain from voting but the board had already adjourned.
Supt. Rodriguez was awarded the position in May 2014 from a field of five candidates. He previously served as superintendent at Carrizo Springs and Dilley ISD.
Atty. Rodriguez served as PISD board president at the time but did not participate in the interview or hiring process and recused herself from closed-session discussions in accordance with the state nepotism law. She is the sister of Dr. Rodriguez. She later resigned her board position prior to Dr. Rodriguez taking office as superintendent.
Trustee Camacho made the motion to hire Dr. Rodriguez while Trustee Martinez seconded the motion at the time.