Donna ISD Board Members File Lawsuit

Posted: Updated: Feb 22, 2016 01:41 PM

DONNA – Two Donna school board members are suing their own school board. They claimed their colleagues violated the Texas Government Code at their last board meeting.

The lawsuit was filed just over a week ago on behalf of Donna board members Ernesto Lugo and Efren Ceniceros.

Lugo and Ceniceros claimed the three other members violated the open meetings act at their last meeting, Feb. 9.

According to the lawsuit, school board president Albert Sandoval, Tammy Ramos and Nick Castillo were accused of changing an item on the agenda and failing to give the public adequate notice.

The item in question authorized the board to take action on calling a special election to fill two existing vacancies on the board. The seats were left empty by former members Eloy Infante and Elipidio Yanez Jr. when they pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Instead, an oral agreement to the agenda was made calling for the board to appoint David De Los Rios and Dennis Ramirez to fill the positions.

The plaintiffs voted against the amendment and the appointments. They claim the board was not authorized to take this action, because there was no specific item on the agenda to appoint replacements.

“It’s our contention in the lawsuit that, while you can appoint members so there wasn’t anything illegal about that, the provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act require public notice of the appointment of personnel, especially personnel of high importance to the district and board members. It doesn’t get any higher than that,” Kevin O’Hanlon, attorney for Lugo and Ceniceros, said.

Donna ISD’s attorney, Robert Salinas, said his clients did give notice about the movement to fill the vacant spots.

“There was sufficient notice for the filling of the vacancies, whether it be by special election or pursuant to the amended motion, the appointment,” Salinas said. “So, like I said we are of distinct opinions. I feel that the notice was sufficient.”

The lawsuit calls for a temporary restraining order to keep the two appointees from participating as trustees until a final trial.

They’re calling for a judge to void the appointments and prohibit them from taking office.

The case is expected to be heard this Wednesday in the 92nd State District Court.