Weslaco school board terminates transportation director’s contract

The Weslaco school board voted Tuesday evening to terminate the contract of Transportation Director Jose Guadalupe “Lupe” Garcia, the latest in apparent fallout at the district over the results of a recently completed forensic audit.

That audit, which was presented to the district last month, described numerous irregularities and inefficiencies, many of them in Garcia’s transportation department.

The report particularly examined the transportation director’s relationship with Mid Valley Trailer Repair, the vendor who quickly began to conduct more bus repairs than any other vendor after Garcia took control of the department.

Garcia is related to the owner of that company through marriage, the report stated, and the district occasionally spent thousands on repair and maintenance for buses that appeared to have been used exceptionally lightly during the five years the audit examined.

The audit also said the owner of Mid Valley offered an unnamed district employee Dallas Cowboys tickets in exchange for future work, that Garcia and the owner would frequently be seen about town together and that the district frequently failed to obtain quotes from other vendors while Garcia advocated for doing business with Mid Valley, sometimes combatively.

A hearing related to Garcia’s contract took place Tuesday before the meeting, interim Superintendent Criselda “Cris” Valdez told the board. She said the administration was recommending termination.

Trustees discussed the termination, and other personnel matters, in executive session for three hours.

There were several seconds of silence before Trustee Marcos De Los Santos moved to terminate Garcia’s contract, sounding almost reluctant.

“Motion to approve,” he sighed.

Asked about his motion after the meeting, De Los Santos declined to comment and directed questions to Superintendent Valdez or the board’s president.

De Los Santos was joined in supporting the termination by trustees Jacky Sustaita, Jesse Trevino and Isidoro Nieto.

Board President Armando Cuellar was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, as he has been from all meetings for the better part of a month. It appears board Vice President Dr. Jaime Rodriguez, who filled in for Cuellar on Tuesday, did not vote on the termination.

Rodriguez did not reply to a request for comment Tuesday evening.

Garcia’s sole obvious defender on the board was Trustee Andrew Gonzalez, who voted against the termination.

Gonzalez declined to comment on the vote after the meeting.

The board took no action on another possible mid-contract termination on its agenda; that of Melva Segura, the district’s former human resources director.

The audit report described Segura being picked by the board for that position over more qualified candidates, despite lacking required qualifications herself. Once there, the report states Segura sometimes acted as a “gatekeeper” for candidates the board reviewed and may have even violated the district’s nepotism policies.

Segura was reassigned to a post as a grant writer in March.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Segura disputes those claims, describing the audit as an inaccurate “fraudit” fueled by board politics.

“Valley politics can be a dirty business”, Segura’s lawyer, civil rights attorney Ric Godinez, wrote in a statement released this weekend, “but no hard working employee like Ms. Segura should ever be used as a pawn in elected officials’ political gamesmanship. It is clear to me that is exactly what happened here — a new board is trying very hard to make the previous board member look bad, and Ms. Segura is collateral damage to that effort. We will not let that happen.”

Hidalgo County 92nd District Court Judge Luis Singleterry signed a temporary restraining order Friday preventing the board from ​​terminating Segura’s contract or changing her salary and benefits. He also set a temporary injunction hearing for the morning of Oct. 14.