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Procedural problem blocks La Joya ISD board from hiring new attorneys

A problem with the meeting agenda blocked the La Joya school board from making a major decision Wednesday.

The district apparently didn’t notify Board President Claudia Ochoa of an addendum to the meeting agenda — “Discussion and Possible Action to Retain Flores, Muñoz & Flores for General Counsel” — which prevented the board from discussing the item.

“We’re trying to work on transparency,” said board Vice President Alex Cantu. “That everybody knows what items are in there, what’s going on.”

The district posted the meeting agenda at 9 a.m. on March 22. Administrators posted the addendum at 4:30 p.m. that day.

It quickly became the talk of western Hidalgo County politicos.

Attorney Jaime “Jerry” Muñoz, who also serves as justice of the peace for Hidalgo County Precinct 2 Place 2, advises the board during meetings.

The addendum appeared to indicate that Jerry Muñoz would be replaced by Flores, Muñoz & Flores, a law firm composed of three young attorneys with political connections.

Flores, Muñoz & Flores includes attorney Victoria Flores and her husband, Palmview City Attorney Eric Flores, the son of former state Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores Sr.; and state Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., the son of former state Rep. Sergio Muñoz Sr.

Victoria Flores, Eric Flores and Sergio Muñoz Sr. attended the board meeting. Sergio Muñoz Jr., who is in the midst of the legislative session, wasn’t present.

Trustee Mary T. Hernandez said that Flores, Muñoz & Flores wouldn’t necessarily replace Jerry Muñoz as general counsel.

“It’s something up for discussion,” Hernandez said, adding that trustees would determine the legal work assigned to each law firm.

Trustee Espie Ochoa had a similar opinion.

Flores, Muñoz & Flores may not necessarily replace Jerry Muñoz. Trustees would assign work to attorneys as appropriate, Ochoa said.

The district also employs attorneys to handle specific areas of the law.

Austin-based law firm O’Hanlon, Demerath & Castillo handles public information requests, education law and other matters for the district. Attorney Ben Castillo attended the meeting Wednesday.

The district also employs Amarillo-based law firm Perdue Brandon Fielder Collins and Mott to collect delinquent property taxes. Attorney Hiram Gutierrez also stopped by the board meeting Wednesday.

Trustees may hold a special meeting next week to discuss hiring Flores, Muñoz & Flores.

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