Former HR director sues Weslaco ISD; judge grants temporary restraining order

The Weslaco ISD Administration Building is seen in an undated photo. (Courtesy Photo)

Things have gone from hot to hotter in Weslaco.

Former Weslaco Independent School District Human Resources Director Melva Segura sued the district Thursday on the heels of a recently completed forensic audit that criticized her performance in that role.

Segura disputes the findings of that audit and sought a temporary restraining order that would prevent the district from terminating her contract or changing her salary and benefits, an order that a judge issued Friday.

The suit repeatedly refers to that audit as a “fraudit.”

Segura is alleging the district breached her contract and violated her due process rights, and is seeking monetary relief between $100,000 and $1 million.

The district has not responded to a request for comment on the suit as of Friday afternoon.

The audit report, which was made public in late September, described Segura as an active volunteer in local politics who was selected by the board as human resources director despite lacking a required master’s degree.

Once in that post, the report stated Segura sometimes acted as a gatekeeper for candidates who came before her, influencing recommendations from interviewing committees.

Melva Segura

Segura also potentially violated the district’s nepotism policies when she requested the district hire her family members, among them her son and daughter, the audit report said.

The audit’s findings prompted significant concern from the board, which is set to discuss terminating Segura’s contract Tuesday.

Thursday’s suit denies Segura abused her post, describing her as “a dedicated, hard-working, and loyal employee” who “loved her job” and worked at the district for over two decades.

In her suit, Segura describes a power shift on the district’s board that she said prompted the launch of the audit and her demotion from human resources director to grant writer in March “without any reason given other than to appease certain recently elected board members who currently hold the power.” 

Segura filed a grievance with the district that was heard by the board in August.

“At this Board meeting, it was announced that the audit had been completed and a preliminary report has been submitted to the Board, but not yet made public,” the suit stated. “Ms. Segura, during her grievance hearing, advised a very surprised board that the auditors had never even sought to interview her. The auditors subsequently contacted Ms. Segura to be interviewed the following week, despite announcing that the “audit” has been completed.”

The suit describes the claims about Segura and her human resources department as “false” and “misleading,” and notes the significant negative attention those claims spurred.

According to the suit, Interim Superintendent Criselda Valdez met with Segura Monday and presented her with a notice of recommendation for termination based on the audit’s findings. 

The suit states Valdez indicated the recommendation would be presented to the board for approval at its meeting the next day, although it took no action at that meeting.

Valdez again gave Segura a notice of recommendation intended to be presented to the board late Friday.

“Ms. Segura will show that the “forensic audit” or “fraudit” is false and misleading, designed solely to create a false image, narrative and perception in order to create “good cause” out of whole cloth to justify an otherwise improper and illegal wrongful termination, in violation of Ms. Segura’s contractual rights,” the suit said. “In addition, Ms. Segura will show that the notice was unreasonable and a violation of her due process rights.”

Segura’s current contract runs through the 2022 school year, the lawsuit said.

In addition to granting a TRO preventing the district from terminating Segura’s contract and changing her salary or benefits, a judge Friday set a temporary injunction hearing for the morning of Oct. 14.

The judge also signed an order referring the case to mediation to occur prior to that Oct. 14 hearing.

The Weslaco board is also scheduled to discuss terminating the contract of Transportation Director Jose Guadalupe  “Lupe” Garcia at Tuesday’s meeting.

The audit intensely scrutinized Garcia’s relationship with a vendor who performed bus repairs and maintenance for the district.

Garcia does not appear to have filed any sort of litigation against the district as of Thursday evening.

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