By J. NOEL ESPINOZA
Special to the NEWS
Nearly two months after being re-elected president of the San Benito Consolidated Board of Trustees, Michael A. Vargas was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in Harlingen.
A police report obtained by the News indicates that Vargas, 32, was found “sleeping behind the wheel of a black passenger vehicle,” around 2 a.m. July 5.
The incident occurred along the 1500 block of N. Ed Carey St. Apparently, someone called the police in reference to an alleged intoxicated driver.
The reporting officer made contact with Vargas, who displayed red bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, according to documents obtained from the Harlingen Police Department.
The arresting officer, according to the police report, later asked him whether he was willing to perform a standardized field sobriety test, but Vargas refused.
“The male subject was deemed operating a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated,” the officer wrote in his report.
In an email on Tuesday, SBCISD Public Relations Director Isabel Gonzalez confirmed Vargas’s arrest.
“District administrators were recently informed by San Benito CISD Board President Michael A. Vargas of his July 5, 2019, arrest,” the email reads. “The Harlingen Police Department arrested Mr. Vargas on an alleged DWI (driving while intoxicated) ‘B’ charge.”
When asked about the school district policy in this kind of situation, Gonzalez said in the email that current district policies can be found on the “Board Policy Manual” webpage, https://pol.tasb.org/Home/Index/260.
If it is true, some school board members believe Vargas should be removed from office. Not one board member wished to go on record, however.
After checking board policies online, the News found that a board member may be removed from office for intoxication on or off duty caused by drinking an alcoholic beverage, but not if it was caused by drinking an alcoholic beverage on the direction and prescription of a licensed physician.
Another removal action includes conviction of a board member by a jury for any felony or for misdemeanor official misconduct. The conviction of a public officer by a jury for any felony or for a misdemeanor involving official misconduct operates as an immediate removal from office of that officer, the school policy reads.
Other actions for removal includes “incompetency,” which means gross ignorance of official duties; gross carelessness in the discharge of those duties; or unfitness or inability to promptly and properly discharge official duties because of a serious physical or mental defect that did not exist at the time of the election.
In addition, “official misconduct,” which means intentional, unlawful behavior relating to official duties by a board member entrusted with the administration of justice or the execution of the law also could be an action for ejection. The policy says the term includes an intentional or corrupt failure, refusal, or neglect of a board member to perform a duty imposed on the board member by law.
Vargas made headlines back in April 2018 when Lydia Hernandez, an Arizona resident, filed a police report against Vargas at a conference in San Antonio.
Vargas allegedly harassed a fellow MASBA board member before throwing a glass filled with water at Hernandez. The police report states that Vargas told officers at the time that he did not remember the events due to being, “Highly intoxicated.”
The News reached out to Vargas following the SBCISD regular board meeting Tuesday night, July 16. “All questions should be directed to my attorney Dan Sanchez,” Vargas said.
Superintendent Nate Carman replied to questions from the News saying, “It’s not for me to comment.”