Setback to SBCISD School Board Majority: Judge Temporarily Suspends Vargas Pending Trial

Michael Vargas is pictured during his hearing on Friday, Dec. 13.
(photo by San Benito News staff)

By J. NOEL ESPINOZA

Special to the NEWS

A visiting judge ruled today to temporarily remove Michael A. Vargas from his position as president of the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees pending a trial early next year.

Retired visiting Judge Manuel Banales, who presided the hearing on the petition removal at 107th District Court in Brownsville, took the resolution after a group of San Benito community members mustered a petition following the arrest for driving while intoxicated of the board member in Harlingen in the early hours of July 5.

At the hearing, the school board president “plead the fifth” on the grounds that he might incriminate himself to using marijuana, controlled substances, dangerous substances, dangerous drugs, and liquor.

In a statement, the  Cameron County District Attorney’s Office found that there was sufficient evidence to support the allegations made against Vargas. “Upon suspending Vargas, Judge Banales announced that he will be instructing the District Clerk to publish a newspaper advertisement,” the statement reads. “This advertisement will invite citizens from San Benito to apply to be appointed by Judge Banales as the temporary appointee to serve in the place of Vargas for pendency of the removal action.”

Jose Caso, one of two lawyers representing Vargas, said they will check whether the decision can be appealed or not.

“We’re considering all our options right now,” Caso said in reference to appealing.

The removal of Vargas also takes place after a lengthy struggle by residents who believe Vargas should have been removed under the district’s own set of codes dealing with such transgressions.

“It’s sad that it had to come to this,” said Janie Lopez, one of the petitioners for Vargas’s removal. “I’m thankful that the judge ruled to have him temporarily suspended.”

Earlier this year, board members Angel Mendez and M. L. Garcia tried to remove Vargas as president while keeping his position as a board member, but the majority headed by Vice-president Orlando Lopez, Secretary Janie Silva, Victor Eloy Rosas, and Sonia Weaver, defeated the motions to remove him as leader of the school board.

However, Vargas was able to remain as president of the school board with the support of the majority of the members.

After Vargas was able to keep his position, the majority also removed general comments during public school board meetings, keeping only items on the agenda to comment on, a measure that some residents believe was to stop people from criticizing the school board president.

In addition to his July 5 arrest, the petitioners also introduced other events as facts to remove Vargas. They included a San Antonio police report where Vargas allegedly was intoxicated and was harassing another individual at the time of the incident. The San Antonio incident also says that he assaulted a female colleague and groped an unwilling male colleague. They also included videos of his arrest in Harlingen from news media sources and a Facebook post to attest to his character.

SBCISD Public Relations Director Isabel Gonzalez issued a brief statement to the NEWS from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nate Carman:  “San Benito CISD will respect the decision of the courts.  We will be consulting with our legal counsel on the next steps.”

Recently, visiting state judge David Stith signed an order to temporarily remove another board member from the Rio Grande City CISD. RGCCISD board member Daniel J.  Garcia was suspended from performing any duties after allegations of bribery and abusing his position to get hired as part of the defense team on a homicide.

Mendez said the decision is a win for the community.

“At the end of the day, justice  prevailed,” Mendez said.

A trial for Vargas has been set for April 13, 2020.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.sbnewspaper.com/2019/12/13/setback-to-sbcisd-school-board-majority-judge-temporarily-suspends-vargas-pending-trial/

6 comments

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    • Mama Lou on December 20, 2019 at 2:06 pm
    • Reply

    Great job Watch Dogs! The law is the law especially to elected officials. The judge was so on point when he addressed Vargas. He not only spoke as a judge but as a parent. If it were a student or teacher caught intoxicated what would happen to them? These elected officials need not to forget who they are there for our students not them. Put our students needs first!

    • Bonito San Bene on December 17, 2019 at 5:54 pm
    • Reply

    What is bothersome is the affidavits super nate, and the other 3 board members including 2 principles wrote to the judge in which the judge stated there was more than enough EVIDENCE to suspend Vargas! Now sup- nate states in the affidavit that Vargas ran unopposed on 2018 well let me untwist your twisted statement: what position did you open that oversees all principles??? And why???? We San Benito citizens know what goes on in our town don’t get confused with our absence in appearances at meetings!!!! SAN BENITO CITIZENS VOICE THE FACTS UNMASK EACH AND EVERYONE OF THEM- Write it here or WATCHDOGS make a gathering at blanqitas restaurant (like the rotary club does every Thursday) every Tuesday and in doing so unite for our Town and Yes, San bene is bonito!!!

    • Observant on December 14, 2019 at 10:37 am
    • Reply

    So you condone the drunk druggy Vargas.. you wouldn’t if he killed or hurt one if yours …while behind a motored vehicle. . You are ignorant to the facts.
    Look at his mug picture..the harlingen pd video of his arrest.

    • James Jones on December 14, 2019 at 10:14 am
    • Reply

    Michael is a great guy and the opposition is upset because of Politica. Just wait until the other slate picks up power so they bring in “airplane ticket” Garcia back because he is the nephew of M.L. Garcia. It’s back to the old days from here.

    • Time For Change on December 13, 2019 at 6:39 pm
    • Reply

    Fantastic news..Christmas came early for me.

    Thank you to those who started the process of removing this man who is Certainly no role model.. no matter how educated he may seem to be.
    First that Kevin Phillips ..out.. , next the school pres..(temp..out).. but praying will be completely ousted by beginning of next school year.

    I am patiently waiting for two more ppl..to be removed.. the super who didn’t care about my situation.. and the principal who ruined my career.

    • Observant on December 13, 2019 at 6:09 pm
    • Reply

    You Are Guilty .. Michael.. police cameras don’t lie!.. give up.. go away!..

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