Brownsville Independent School District Trustee Minerva M. Peña surrendered Friday to Cameron County Sheriff’s deputies on a Class C nepotism charge in a case involving employment of her former daughter-in-law as a teacher at Veterans Memorial Early College High School.

The case involves allegations that Peña helped her then-daughter-in-law secure a teaching job at VMECHS, which would violate the state’s nepotism laws and which Peña has told The Brownsville Herald never happened. The daughter-in-law later passed away.

In August the BISD Board of Trustees referred the matter to Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz.

Pena’s attorney Rick Zayas said late Friday that Peña is accused of violating Section 573.041 of the Texas Government Code between June 8, 2021, and Aug. 6, 2021. The law states that a public official may not “appoint, confirm the appointment of, or vote for the appointment or confirmation of the appointment of an individual to a position that is to be directly or indirectly compensated from public funds or fees” if that person is related to the public official.

“Minerva Peña did not ‘appoint, confirm the appointment of, or vote for the appointment or confirmation of the appointment of an individual to a position that is to be directly or indirectly compensated from public funds or fees,’” Zayas said.

Zayas on Friday posted an attorney surety bond and she was released to his custody.

Peña has said she had nothing to do with BISD hiring her then-daughter-in-law, who later divorced from her son, saying that as a board member she has always left hiring decisions to Superintendent Rene Gutierrez and his administration as required by law.

The penalty for violating Section 573.041 of the Texas Government Code is a fine of not less that $100 or more than $1,000.

Peña is a retired Department of Public Safety trooper.


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