By LOUIE DIAZ
The San Benito CISD Board of Trustees held a special school board meeting on May 18 and discussed amendments to the BED(LOCAL) policy and the termination of contracts with the district’s current legal services and approval of a new contract.
The school board voted to amend the BED(LOCAL) policy, which pertains to public comment during board meetings. A motion was made to amend the policy by trustee Janie Lopez and seconded by trustee Oscar Medrano. The school board voted unanimously to change the policy to allow all public comments regardless if they pertain to agenda items. Prior to the vote, the policy only allowed public comments on agenda items for a maximum of three minutes per topic.
Also on the agenda was the termination of contracts with the district’s current legal services and approval of a new legal services contract with Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP. The law firm is based in Austin and has offices in Hidalgo County.
Steven Weller, an attorney with the new law firm presented the item. According to Weller, the general counsel fees in the contract are $250 per hour and $275 per hour for specialty practice work. The legal fees with Flores & Torres were $200 an hour. Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP also did work with Roma ISD and Rio Grande City ISD, Weller said.
“I gave him my opinion on our new board, six out of seven are fairly new—two being on the board once again—I feel we need a clean slate,” Board President Ramiro Moreno said. “This isn’t unique with SBCISD—there are good things and bad things—but forming relationships with attorneys and legal counsel is one thing, but having ties outside of the school district and even current legal counsel having ties with board members that are no longer part of our board is something that concerns me as board president.”
Orlando Lopez questioned Weller and his relationships with other board members. Ariel Cruz also argued that this was not a “clean slate” as Moreno said. When questioned, Weller said that he knew Moreno and Janie Lopez before coming before the school board.
“You had board members previously that knew [attorneys] outside of work or had personal relationships. What’s the difference now Mr. Moreno?” Orlando Lopez asked.
“The difference is that I don’t have friendships with Mr. Weller, it’s a professional relationship; I don’t go out to dinner with Mr. Weller, I don’t go on fishing trips with Mr. Weller and so that’s what I’m talking about when it comes to transparency,” Moreno answered.
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