McAllen trustee responds to allegations in challenge

McAllen school trustee Tony Forina asked for a legal challenge to his election last month be thrown out in a response through his attorney Gilberto Hinojosa.

His challenger in the May 4 McAllen ISD election, Gina Karam Millin, filed a petition for election contest against Forina on June 13 following a narrow loss. Forina received 2,759 votes to Karam Millin’s 2,747, according to the official canvass on May 15.

Forina essentially asked the judge to dismiss the claims in Karam Millin’s petition because of a “lack of jurisdiction.” As a contestee, Forina requested Karam Millin to prove her allegations with evidence and in accordance with the Texas Elections Code.

“I’m trying to keep my name, the district and the county elections department name clear, there was no wrongdoing that I know of,” Forina said.

Forina also argues that the margin for his victory was larger than what the official canvass shows. In his counter petition, he is alleging that “numerous mail-in ballots that were counted” for Karam Millin should not be valid due to alleged violations of the Texas Election Code.

Although Karam Millin specifically challenged Forina in her petition, she also made allegations against other entities in her original petition, including the school district and Hidalgo County.

“Failure to Disclose A Damaging Audit” and “Resources of McAllen ISD were Used to Influence the Election” were two sources of contention among several others in Karam Millin’s petition.

She alleges the district “systematically promoted” her opponent during the campaign, and that current vendors “contributed thousands of dollars to finance my opponent’s campaign.” The audit in question was made available to the administration in January but not publicly released until after the May 4 election, according to the original petition.

This audit was conducted by the Texas Association of School Administrators as requested by school board members in July 2018.

She called the audit “damaging” and would have reflected badly for the incumbents running for re-election, and was “improperly withheld” because its potential influence on the election.

Recommendations to improve the district were “disregarded” during this period, she further alleged.

“Improper Notice of Polling Locations, Election Day Bomb Threat and The County of Hidalgo Engaged in Improper Conduct” were other issues in Karam Millin petition.

She alleges the county violated Texas Election Code when poll workers who “improperly advised voters as to which candidates on the ballot were incumbents,” along with a failure “to inform potential voters who were eligible to vote of their right to cast a provisional ballot,” in her petition.

Forina denied these allegations and asked for “specificity” in how he and other entities may have violated Texas Election Code.

“This Court does not have jurisdiction over the claims asserted by Contestant, as contained herein, because Contestant has not demonstrated and cannot affirmatively demonstrate that this Court has jurisdiction to hear the claims, contained herein, under the Texas Election Code as an Election Contest,” Forina’s counter petition read.

Forina asked for specifics of how the audit was “improperly withheld” in his counter petition. It also asked for “specificity which provisions of the Texas Election Code were violated” when the district “allegedly failed to reveal” the audit before the election, and how this would have influenced the election in his favor.

He further asked for “specificity” of which Texas Election Code provisions were violated and how the school district “purposefully excluded” his challenger.

Karam Millin, meanwhile, intends on seeing the case through, but didn’t comment further.

In a statement released June 13, Karam Millin said: “My decision stems from (some) of the same reasons I chose to run in the first place: to assure that our children’s best interests are always the priority of our school board and that the board is using our taxpayer dollars honestly and effectively.”

A status conference is set for hearing at 2 p.m. July 17 in the 464th state District Court, according to the docket.