RGC school board meeting must wait on appeals court ruling

RIO GRANDE CITY — Judge Carlos Valdez ruled last week that the Rio Grande City school board trustees will have to abide by the state and local law when calling meetings. However, an appeals court Wednesday stayed enforcement of the judge’s ruling,

Valdez’s decision came Thursday, May 17, in the 229th Judicial District Court, and the first meeting since the order was signed is scheduled for Thursday. But on Wednesday, a Facebook post by the group Hope for RGCCISD showed that the Fourth Court of Appeals granted a request overruling the district court’s mandated meeting.

Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez and Basilio “Bacho” Villarreal, school board president and secretary, filed a petition to prevent four trustees who make up a majority of the board from meeting on May 9, and any other meetings that would allegedly violate the law. Trustee Noe Castillo, who is politically affiliated with the plaintiffs, was not named in the petition.

The plaintiffs filed their temporary restraining order through school district attorney Ruben Peña, alleging that the other four members of the board may have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Peña argued board members will have to abide by the open meetings act and district policy for planning school board meetings.

A meeting posted on May 10 and scheduled for May 14 was canceled, according to the district’s website. Trustees also did not meet for the scheduled board meeting on May 9.

Since the four members did not meet, the TRO was successful, he said.

Now, according to the judge’s order signed May 17, special meetings are either at the board president’s “discretion” or with the request of four trustees in written or electronic format. These requests must be made individually and “not in concert with other board members.”

After receiving a request from an individual board member, the superintendent will contact the trustees individually to confirm, either written or electronically, “if there are four or more members in agreement” to hold a special meeting, as written in the May 17 order.

Individual board members must also submit items to the superintendent for the agenda seven days before a regular board meeting or four days prior to a special called board meeting, according to the May 17 order.

The superintendent and board president “shall prepare the agenda for any such board meetings and shall include in the preliminary agenda subjects that have been timely submitted by a board member,” the May 17 order further read.

With the approval of the board president, the superintendent must then “finalize the agenda and the topics contained therein.”

The board president does not have the power to remove an agenda requested by a board member without their “specific written or electronic authority.”

What’s more, the board president has the power to ensure any requested items to be put on the agenda or for an agenda in the near future, Peña said.

“The bottom line was the judge ordered everybody to follow the board policy, and in order for the four members to comply with them as well as the members that I was representing to comply with the policies themselves,” Peña said.

This story was updated to include new information about the district court’s order being stayed Wednesday.