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Insurance agent sues La Joya ISD — twice

An insurance agent filed two lawsuits against the La Joya Independent School District last week, claiming the school board is part of a “civil conspiracy” against him.

Pharr-based Workplace Benefit Advisors LLC, which is owned by Alberto “Bob” Treviño, sued La Joya ISD on April 3 and April 6.

The lawsuits claim La Joya ISD broke a contract with Workplace Benefit Advisors, which cost the company thousands in damages.

“It’s not $5,000. It’s not $10,000,” said attorney Gus Acevedo of Pharr, who represents Workplace Benefit Advisors. “We’re talking over $50,000 for sure, if not more.”

The lawsuits against La Joya ISD are part of a saga that started more than a decade ago.

In 2012, the school board approved a three-year contract with Ruth Villarreal Insurance.

The contract became a point of contention during the November 2012 school board election. Candidates who opposed the deal with Ruth Villarreal Insurance took control of the board — and terminated the contract.

Ruth Villarreal Insurance sued La Joya ISD, which settled the lawsuit in 2017.

The district paid $300,000 to Villarreal and $1.5 million to her attorneys, according to documents released under the Texas Public Information Act. La Joya ISD also inked an eight-year contract with Ruth Villarreal Insurance. In exchange, she agreed not to seek another $3.3 million in damages.

If the district broke the contract for any reason, La Joya ISD agreed to pay her $68,375 per month until February 2024.

La Joya ISD, however, terminated the contract anyway in 2020. After another round of litigation, La Joya ISD settled with Ruth Villarreal Insurance in March.

“Considering the district has lost its arguments in both the district and the appellate court, legal counsel has no choice but to recommend that we agree to the terms of the proposed settlement agreement with Ruth Villarreal,” attorney Jaime “Jerry” Muñoz of Pharr, who represents La Joya ISD, said on March 22, when he summarized the situation during a school board meeting. “Ruth Villarreal is proposing not to collect any cash from the district in the form of any damages. Instead, Ms. Villarreal is proposing that she be allowed to work for the district uninterrupted until she has earned the amount that is currently due and owing to her office.”

To bring Ruth Villarreal Insurance back, La Joya ISD had to drop Workplace Benefit Advisors.

The contract between La Joya ISD and Workplace Benefit Advisors allowed the arrangement to be terminated with 30 days notice. Workplace Benefit Advisors, however, claims La Joya ISD terminated the contract with just 2 days notice.

“On information and belief, Defendant’s school board members conspired with a third party, Ruth Villarreal and Ruth Villarreal Insurance, LLC to terminate Plaintiff,” according to an amended lawsuit filed on April 11. “Plaintiff’s contract was then awarded to Ruth Villarreal and Ruth Villarreal Insurance, LLC without going through any governmental procurement process which would have allowed for competitive proposals.”

Muñoz said the claims made by Workplace Benefit Advisors are false. La Joya ISD provided Workplace Benefit Advisors with 30 days notice, Muñoz said, and requested that Bob Treviño work with Ruth Villarreal during the transition.

Attorney Javier Peña of Edinburg, who represents Ruth Villarreal, said his client — not Bob Treviño — was actually the victim of a conspiracy.

In March 2022, former La Joya school board President Oscar “Coach” Salinas pleaded guilty to a federal extortion charge. As part of his plea, Salinas admitted that he voted to cancel the contract with Ruth Villarreal Insurance for political reasons.

Ruth Villarreal just wants to resolve the litigation, Peña said, and decided to work for La Joya ISD instead of collecting millions from the district.

“And, despite that, Bob is still filing these lawsuits,” Peña said.

Workplace Benefit Advisors sued La Joya ISD on April 3 under the name “Alberto Trevino d/b/a Bob Trevino Insurance Workplace Benefits Advisors.” The lawsuit asked state District Judge Luis Singleterry to sign a restraining order against La Joya ISD.

Singleterry didn’t sign the restraining order.

Three days later, Workplace Benefit Advisors sued La Joya ISD again under the name “AAAR Family LTD d/b/a Trevino Insurance Workplace Benefits Advisors.”

The second lawsuit, which also requested a restraining order, landed in state District Judge Israel Ramon Jr.’s court.

On Thursday morning, the request for a restraining order remained pending.

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