The Texas Education Agency plans to conduct a “Special Investigation” after receiving complaints about the La Joya Independent School District.
Superintendent Gisela Saenz and school board President Alda T. Benavides received a letter about the investigation last month.
“Multiple complaints allege members of the LJISD Board of Trustees and administration engaged in fraud, conflict of interest and contract procurement violations,” according to the letter, which is titled “Notice of Special Investigation.”
The letter doesn’t identify the people accused of wrongdoing or provide any details about the complaints.
During the past four months, however, two school board trustees and two administrators pleaded guilty to public corruption charges. They confessed to accepting bribes, circumventing the competitive bidding process and extortion.
The investigation, which is being conducted by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, remains ongoing.
According to the letter, the agency will focus on four “Alleged Violations” of state law:
* Texas Education Code Chapter 11 Subchapter D: Powers and Duties of Board of Trustees of Independent School District
* Texas Education Code Chapter 44 Subchapter B: Purchases; Contracts
* Texas Local Government Code Chapter 171: Regulation of Conflicts of Interest of Officers of Municipalities, Counties, and Certain Other Local Governments.
* Texas Local Government Code Chapter 176: Disclosure of Certain Relationships with Local Government Officers; Providing Public Access to Certain Information
La Joya ISD apparently received the letter on March 21.
The Progress Times filed a public information request for the letter two days later.
La Joya ISD declined to release the letter and requested a decision from the Texas Attorney General’s Office. A source, however, shared the letter’s contents with the Progress Times.
“This letter serves to notify La Joya ISD (LJISD) of a Special Investigation (SI) to be conducted by the Texas Education Agency (TEA),” according to the letter. “The Commissioner of Education has authorized a Special Investigation in response to complaints received by the TEA’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU). This investigation will be conducted by TEA’s Special Investigation Unit.”
After investigating the allegations, the agency will provide La Joya ISD with a preliminary report and provide the district with an opportunity to respond.
“The final report, assignment, determination, or decision may include changes or additions to the preliminary report (or action) and will recommend corrective actions and/or sanctions if appropriate,” according to the agency website, which summarizes the special investigation process.
Benavides, the school board president, said La Joya ISD would provide the agency with anything it requests.
“We’re cooperating fully with both the FBI and the Texas Education Agency, when they do become involved,” Benavides said.