Donna school board meeting canceled after restraining order granted - The Monitor: Local News

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Donna school board meeting canceled after restraining order granted

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Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 9:21 pm

This story was edited to correctly reflect the fact that the petition does not state why Ernesto Lugo and Castillo could not attend the meeting. 

DONNA — There was no school board meeting Tuesday night because two school board members filed a temporary restraining order that stopped it from happening.

Board members Ernesto Lugo and Nick Castillo filed a petition for the temporary restraining order Tuesday, and it was granted the same day by Albert Garcia, judge for Hidalgo County Court at Law 6.

One of the major purposes of the Tuesday meeting that didn’t happen was to accept the resignation of board member Michael Flores and appoint his successor.

It’s not the first time Flores has tried to resign. He said he resigned before, but undid it after then-Board President Alfredo Lugo committed suicide in his home on New Year’s Day.

“I did resign and then rescinded it after (Alfredo) Lugo died to bring some stability to the board,” Flores said.

Ernesto Lugo and Castillo’s petition says that the question of Flores’ successor was inappropriately placed in the closed executive session portion of the meeting rather than the open session – an alleged violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.  

The petition also states that neither Ernesto Lugo nor Castillo could attend the meeting and alleges that the school board would move forward in appointing a successor without a quorum. The petition does not say why the two board members were unable to attend the meeting. Neither Dennis Ramirez — the attorney representing the two board members — nor Castillo could be reached by phone Tuesday night for comment.

Ernesto Lugo said that he could not attend the meeting because of personal family reasons, but would not go into more detail. He also said he alerted the district to the fact he would not attend the meeting a week previously, but it was scheduled anyway.

“We didn’t want to do anything that would create an issue down the road, so we thought it was best to postpone the meeting until everyone was present,” Ernesto Lugo said. 

Jerad Najvar, an attorney out of Houston who has two cases pending relating to temporary restraining orders against elected bodies in the Valley, said a judge has the responsibility to make sure that plaintiffs requesting orders have good reasons and a legal leg to stand on.

Najvar said he did not understand why Judge Garcia granted the order when the two board members did not back up their claims about the meeting with explanations.

“I would suspect that (Castillo and Ernesto Lugo) have no valid excuse as to why they can’t be at the meeting, and they haven’t tried to explain it to the judge, so it looks like it’s just basically them trying to stall,” Najvar said. “From what I’ve seen of courts in the Valley, judges are a lot more likely to grant injunctions than you would see elsewhere in the state. It happens all the time.”

Judge Garcia could not be reached Tuesday night for comment.

Board President Efren Ceniceros said he also felt Ernesto Lugo and Castillo’s temporary restraining order was a stall tactic.

“I guess they don’t want us to go through with the appointment,” Ceniceros said. “I think a temporary restraining order is something you do, in this case, it was a last-second effort to try to postpone it or delay it or whatever.”

Ernesto Lugo responded to the allegations that he and Castillo were trying to stall.

“It’s not a stall tactic, we clearly just want representation and we want to make sure that the board is not violating the Open Meetings Act,” Ernesto Lugo said.

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