A few days before his pre-trial hearing, the former La Joya Housing Authority executive director has resigned from his position as a school board member with the La Joya Independent School District.
Juan J. “J.J.” Garza turned in his letter of resignation to his fellow board members earlier today, Garza said in a phone interview. The resignation is effective immediately and will give him time to concentrate on his indictment for his alleged involvement in a bid-rigging scheme.
“I told my wife it’s better to get this out of the way and concentrate on this hearing and just move on,” Garza said. “That way I can work on whatever I have to work on for Monday.”
Garza, as well as local contractor Armando Jimenez, were arrested in September by federal agents in connection with an alleged bid-rigging scheme.
The indictment against Garza states that between July 2012 and March 2013, Jimenez and Garza submitted false bids so that Jimenez Construction would win the bidding for construction projects for the Alamo and Donna housing authorities. The false bids were submitted under the names of Crane Construction and Carlos Orillana, according to the indictment.
Following the indictment, Garza was suspended from his $69,000 a year position with the housing authority before ultimately being fired. His pre-trial hearing is set for Monday at the federal courthouse in McAllen.
“The rest of the board they wish the best for me and understand my position. I’m under a lot of pressure and I have to deal with the indictment and my family and stuff like that, stepping down is better for me,” Garza said. “You might not believe it, but it is a lot of work to be a school board member. It has to do with a lot of people, phone calls and other things to do. It takes a lot of time.”
Garza said he is meeting with his lawyer before the hearing to decide how he should plead.
“We’re not sure yet, I could plead guilty. I have to think about that too, we’re not sure yet,” he said. “It’s been already six months (since his arrest), it’s hard. I’ve been planning for the future for my family and stuff like that. I’ve gotten some job offers but I can’t take them until I resolve this issue so I can be able to move on.”
When contacted, School Board President Oscar “Coach” Salinas said he expresses thanks to Garza for his five years of service with the district, adding that a board committee would have to meet to decide how to move forward with Garza’s resignation.
It was not clear as of Thursday what would happen to Garza’s former position with the school board. The next La Joya school board election is set for November 2018