A findings of fact and conclusions of law filed Friday on La Joya ISD’s attempt to resist a Texas Education Agency takeover found several of the district’s arguments unconvincing, confirming agency allegations of board mismanagement and undisclosed conflicts of interest.
The agency is attempting to install a board of managers to oversee the district after rampant corruption, arrests, and allegations of corruption in recent years.
The findings do not mean that intervention is inevitable.
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath has the final say on what the state will do and could make a decision this month.
The district has contended that those scandals the TEA investigated were the fault of individual bad actors rather than examples of systemic mismanagement.
Administrative law judges who authored the findings did not, on the whole, buy that argument, writing that “the preponderant evidence supports a reasonable inference that the Board’s lack of oversight and management, collectively, facilitated at least one criminal scheme through its affirmative conduct and omissions.”
The findings also confirmed conflict of interest violations at the district, including one involving current Board President Alejandro “Alex” Cantu.
In closing statements, district counsel contended that Cantu had acted on legal advice by not disclosing a conflict of interest regarding RGV Read and Feed and that he promptly disclosed the conflict when he later became aware of it.
Cantu testified that he remembered virtually nothing of his involvement with the organization in August.
The findings describe the conflict of interest as clear and Cantu’s testimony as not being credible.
“Instead, his testimony was evasive, indirect, and contradictory,” the document says. “For example, over two years, Trustee Cantu received more than $250,000 in compensation for his role as a consultant with RGV, but he could not remember even one detail of a responsibility he had or any task he performed in 2018 and 2019 on behalf of RGV.”
The testimony left judges “with the inference that LJISD—through RGV—paid Trustee Cantu significant sums for doing nothing.”