Former risk manager stays canned

Staff Writer 

SBCISD“I reviewed all transcripts,” said Superintendent of Schools Antonio G. Limón on Friday evening, of former San Benito CISD Risk Manager Janie Gonzalez’s multi-page grievance with the district and Planner/Evaluator Ruben Franco’s written response, in which he elected not to reinstate Gonzalez. “Additionally, Limón said, “I still find I had cause to terminate Gonzalez, and my choice is not to reinstate her. That’s the bottom line.”

It was in May when Gonzalez was reportedly approached by School Board President Yliana G. Rodriguez to draft a letter that would have immediately canceled a contract between SBCISD and their present insurance agent, Bob Treviño Insurance, and instate Robert Champion Jr. of Salazar Insurance Group (SIG). This action broke board policy, which indicates such a decision must be made by the board as a collective unit.

Though the letter was retracted two days after it surfaced, fellow trustee Oscar Medrano requested a hearing to investigate the letter and its intents and purposes. He also requested an investigation into the district’s insurance consultant, Glenn Hillyer, regarding his affiliation with the SIG group and Champion.

The superintendent fired Gonzalez in September when Gonzalez was allegedly found to be dishonest regarding electronic communication she had had with Champion, in which Hillyer was carbon copied.

By the time Gonzalez’s grievance reached the penultimate Level 4, the school board voted 4-3 in favor of reinstating Gonzalez and recommended said reinstatement to the superintendent. Limón was in somewhat of a time constraint to make a decision regarding Gonzalez’s fate.

“I voted my conscience,” said Medrano of his vote not to reinstate Gonzalez. He added, “I knew that voting the way I voted was the right thing to do. [Trustees] were presented with evidence, and I believe Mr. Limón has made the right decision. He made his decision according to policy.” The evidence to which Medrano made reference was Franco’s documentation for denying her grievance at Level 3.

Members of the community also feel strongly about this longwinded battle between conflicting sides in the school district.

San Benitian Jesus Esquivel, 32, said, “I believe that Gonzalez got caught, and they got the proof. She shouldn’t be reinstated. She should be taken out.” Of the fact that her grievance even went to the school board level, Esquivel added, “They shouldn’t give her a second chance. If she did it once, she’d do it twice. She got caught. That’s it,” he asserted.

Comparatively, Jose Sanchez, 83, of San Benito said, “I think [Gonzalez] should be reinstated because I don’t think there was a reason for her to be fired. I think Superintendent Limón and the president (Rodriguez) should be fired.”

Aspiring police officer Danny Morin, Jr., 27, feels strongly about the goings-on within the district. Morin exclaimed, “No, Gonzalez and Rodriguez should both be terminated. How were they going to break a contract of a worker (Treviño) with no other cause except I want someone else (SIG) to come work? I don’t think it’s fair.”

Medrano also did not like the idea of policy being disregarded, yet he did not receive much support from his colleagues when he suggested launching an investigation into Rodriguez. According to Limón, district policy explains that one board member cannot initiate the launch of an investigation; such a probe would require the collective board’s consensus.

Attempts to reach Rodriguez for comment were unsuccessful as of presstime.

Medrano said on Friday, “I received support from some. My stance is: look at the facts, look at the evidence, and go from there. I’ve always said, ‘Let’s open up an investigation and clear the air, and let’s start making a decision for the education on our students.’”

“As school board members,” said Medrano, “myself and Ms. Rodriguez are no exceptions, and we should be held accountable. I’ve worked with my fellow colleagues. We’ve heard the evidence and seen everything that has transpired. Every board member will have to decide how to proceed from here… and decide how they feel about Ms. Rodriguez continuing on this board.”

Benito Canales, 80, a retiree of San Benito, said, “In my opinion, [Gonzalez] was railroaded. I think the president of the school board (Rodriguez) did in fact tell her to do what she said. She had to follow orders. The ones who should be fired are the president of the school board and the superintendent. If I were [Gonzalez], I would sue both of these people (Rodriguez and Limón) and sue the school district of San Benito. Janie deserves a lot of money and to be cleared of the whole thing.”

Car salesperson Juan A. De La Torres of San Benito said frankly, “I think the superintendent was right to fire her.” In addition, he explained, “[Gonzalez and Rodriguez] should both be fired.”

Medrano discussed issues relative to the school board’s power shift after the last election when he stated: “I think, since the beginning, I have asked and looked into this whole situation. I have always wanted to give the president the opportunity to tell us exactly what occurred and what transpired. However, I think we’re at the point…it’s evident and no secret that based on the shift of power that occurred in this last election that Ms. Rodriguez might have support to keep her on [the board].”

Medrano thinks he school board’s number one priority should arguably be the students’ wellbeing. He said, “I always concur to my fellow trustees to look at the facts and do what’s right for our students to help move our district forward. By doing so we can put this behind us and focus on the most important things, our students, academics, visiting schools, drafting policies that will be good for students. That’s what we should be focusing on, and I’m hoping that school board members will see it for what it is. It is what it is.”

“I really didn’t think we would still be talking about [Gonzalez’s and Rodriguez’s actions] at this time,” Medrano continued. “I believe Ms. Rodriguez has more she could tell us, but that’s her decision.”

According to Medrano, “Mr. Limón abided by policy. At the end of the day, he is the one who has to respond to all the employees of our school district. He has to abide by whatever message he is sending as a leader.”

Gonzalez’s attorney Cindy Garcia does not share Medrano’s faith in Limón. Garcia has gone on record as accusing Limón of failure to render an impartial decision in Gonzalez’s grievance.

In an exclusive interview with the News, Garcia said, “I think that it’s something that the school district should consider: They allow the superintendent – who was involved in the decision to terminate Janie – to ultimately make the decision to reinstate her after the board recommended to reinstate her. I think the superintendent or board should have recommended that someone else be involved in the decision, due to his conflict of interest. That only makes sense.”

Garcia continued, “Considering the superintendent’s decision after the school board made a recommendation to reinstate Janie, the school board should take a hard-look into whether the superintendent should have the authority to hire or terminate an employee with the school district, especially at the high level that Janie Gonzalez was in. At this time we are considering our actions and preparing our legal action against the school and in particular Mr. Limón.”

Read this story in the Oct. 21 edition of the San Benito News, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.

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    • Venus on October 25, 2012 at 11:45 pm
    • Reply

    I find it amusing that JG’s lawyer calls Mr. Limon’s decision a conflict of interest, when CLEARLY Yliana shouldn’t have been able to vote on their “recommendation to reinstate” because she was the other party involved in the wrong doing.

    SUGGESTION: Since the citizens of SB have already seen what kind of under the table things Yliana is capable of, and since her “friends” won’t go after her themselves (Heaven forbid one of them be held accountable for their actions), SB citizens need to unite, and get her out themselves when it’s her time to be re-elected.

    You cannot “fire” an elected official any other way.

    • Ralph on October 22, 2012 at 8:58 pm
    • Reply

    To the lawyer: you are Absoultely right. Why isn’t the
    Lawyer going after the Educated Board President?
    Sounds fishy to me too

    • to the lawyer on October 22, 2012 at 8:33 am
    • Reply

    To the lawyer of J. Gonzalez,

    Your client lied and sent emails she shouldn’t have, which led to her firing. The procedures for firing and reinstatement maybe questionable, but she still did what she did which led to her firing in the first place. How do you justify and explain your client’s actions?

    She is a grown adult. She could have said no when approached by the school board president to do what she did. She chose to carry out her orders and she, at the end of the day, is responsible for her own actions.

    Is it the school board president’s fault for telling her to do what she did, perhaps. If it is, why don’t you go after her more aggressively. It sure doesn’t appear that way. If you want to take down the superindendent, you have every right to try. But, why aren’t you using that same energy, passion, and enthusiasm to take down the school board president – the one who caused your client to get into trouble in the first place.

    Sounds and looks a bit fishy and shady in my opinion.

    • elected officials on October 22, 2012 at 8:22 am
    • Reply

    “Attempts to reach Rodriguez for comment were unsuccessful as of presstime.” (SBNews)

    For being an elected public official, she sure isn’t very public.

    • That Girl on October 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you Mr. Limon for doing what was best for the district.

    • Kicker on October 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm
    • Reply

    To David: your comment about the Board President is very true. How did she think she could do what she did? Because she and her “3 friends” do not care about policies. Just check out their vote on that Risk Manager. Only in San Benito! Shame, shame, shame.

    • Gilbert on October 20, 2012 at 9:06 pm
    • Reply

    Snow cone case has more interest
    than school policy and procedures.

    • david on October 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm
    • Reply

    always wondered why ms. rodriguez thought she could draft
    the letter and think she could do so with no questions asked(??).
    did she think she had sufficient internal support to do things
    without seeking approval? luckily she is not a president on an
    upper valley school board, she might have faced a grand jury.
    will be difficult to reestablish that trust needed between and
    among groups to develop and achieve goals smoothly.
    good luck.

    • senior analyst on October 20, 2012 at 9:45 am
    • Reply

    Janie, even if you would have hired a more effective, common sense attny. she still would not have changed the fact that you admitted you sent out the letter and lied. Just look at who was voted and recommended to Mr. Limon to re-instate you. A para-professional that doesn’t pay property taxes, a former store clerk that doesn’t pay taxes, a student that doesn’t pay property taxes, and an administrator that admined to sending out a letter that T.E.A. said was WRONG!
    I anyalyzed the character of these 4 individuals and said to myself – “They are telling Mr. Limon what they feel he should do”. I DON’T THINK SO!!! Don’t blame me, I voted for Bob T.!!!

      • Ruben on October 22, 2012 at 8:01 pm
      • Reply

      Mr. T was just as bad. Start doing and acting on behalf of the children, instead of personal gain. Your quick to point out who pays taxes and who doesn’t.

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