San Benito trustee facing DWI charge resigns from office

Days after a judge ordered his suspension from office in what’s being called a precedent-setting case, San Benito school board President Michael Vargas is resigning, nearly six months after his arrest on a driving while intoxicated charge.

On Monday, school board members are scheduled to “discuss and accept” Vargas’ resignation during a special meeting.

“The resignation can only become effective when the board accepts it,” Jose Caso, an attorney representing Vargas, said Friday.

Thursday evening, the school district announced Vargas is resigning — a week after state District Judge Manuel Bañales ordered his suspension on the grounds of intoxication.

Vargas’ resignation will allow school board members to appoint his replacement, possibly during Monday’s meeting, district spokeswoman Isabel Gonzalez stated.

During a Dec. 13 hearing in 107th state District Court, Bañales said he would appoint Vargas’ replacement based on applications from San Benito residents.

But upon Vargas’ resignation, the school board would appoint his replacement, Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz said Friday.

Vargas’ resignation would close the civil removal case, Assistant District Attorney Edward Sandoval has stated.

Friday, Vargas did not respond to requests for comment on his resignation.

Elected to the board’s Place 1 seat in May 2015, Vargas has served as its president since May 2017.

Last year, he won re-election to the term expiring in May 2021.

Before the school officials announced Vargas was resigning, the district attorneys’ office continued to work to build its case against him.

Earlier this week, Sandoval notified the city of Pharr, where Vargas works as a public affairs liaison, he would request “the University of Texas at Brownsville” release “all employment documents relating to Michael A. Vargas, including (and) not limited to Michael A. Vargas’ employment application.”

Despite the civil removal case’s closure, Vargas continues to face a DWI charge.

Last month in Cameron County Court at Law No. 5, visiting Judge Leonel Alejandro set a Feb. 6 jury trial during an arraignment hearing stemming from Saenz’s decision to upgrade Vargas’ DWI charge from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor based on his 0.256 blood-alcohol level at the time of his arrest.

As a result, prosecutors are counting what records show as Vargas’ first drunken driving charge as his second DWI charge, Saenz said during an interview last month.

The upgraded charge boosts the offense’s potential penalty from six months in jail and a $2,000 fine to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.