Mercedes ISD denies allegations in response to former super’s lawsuit

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Carolyn Mendiola

The Mercedes school district has responded to a lawsuit brought by the district’s former superintendent and also in a separate filing asked a federal judge to dismiss it.

The district in its answer stated Mercedes ISD denies each and every allegation claimed in Carolyn Mendiola’s lawsuit.

Mendiola’s attorney, John Shergold, filed a federal lawsuit alleging the school district violated the Equal Pay Act by underpaying her because she is a woman.

Being the Mercedes ISD superintendent for about three years, she resigned from her position on May 18, 2022 — nine days after she was accused of interfering in a Mercedes police investigation involving a Mercedes High School teacher who is charged with improper relationship between an educator and a student.

Mendiola was then arrested on June 3. She denied the charges. Her attorney, state Rep. Terry Canales, previously told The Monitor that the arrest was politically motivated.

A search of court records this week didn’t return an indictment against Mendiola.

Mercedes ISD’s motion to dismiss the case states Mendiola’s allegations fall short to support a claim of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.

The document states that Mendiola shows no facts of her being demoted, reassigned, receiving a reduction in salary, being assigned to degrading work, being offered early retirement. It fails to plead any facts showing conduct or statements were so intolerable for a reasonable person to resign or that any alleged harassment was calculated to encourage her resignation, according to the motion.

Mendiola’s federal lawsuit does not mention the criminal allegations against her but does include the pay discrepancy allegations and the alleged harassment and humiliation to her by board member Pedro Martinez III.

According to the lawsuit, Mendiola was paid $25,000 less than other superintendents within the Region One Education Service Center which encompasses several South Texas counties, including all of the Rio Grande Valley.

The document said former Mercedes ISD Superintendent Daniel Trevino made $50,000 more than she did at about $200,000 compared to her making around $160,000.

“Unequivocally, both male superintendents were treated differently than Plaintiff who is female that had substantially equal job descriptions that required the same skill, effort and responsibility,” the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit also alleges that board member Martinez humiliated her with verbal insults and unfounded accusations to humiliate and harass her.

The document states Martinez accused Mendiola of drinking alcohol around colleagues, yelling at her on school property and indicated she accidentally called the police on Martinez.

“Martinez belittled Plaintiff for calling the local police authority regarding an individual wandering on school campus that was unidentified,” the lawsuit stated. “The individual unbeknownst to Plaintiff was Martinez who then accused Plaintiff (of) calling the police intentionally on him that was untrue.”

In her final board meeting, she claims the board majority ordered her to move students to an administrative building that had serious issues.

According to the lawsuit, the building had problems under standards set by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Mendiola says she was humiliated at the school meeting for not agreeing with the rest of the board.

“The board majority that consisted of trustees Oscar Hernandez, Pedro Martinez, III, Eddie Howell and Lucy Delgado, ordered Plaintiff to approve the housing of students into the building that was unsafe for the children to occupy,” the lawsuit stated. “The board majority would badger Plaintiff for approximately 4 months on moving students into an unsafe building until the date of Plaintiff’s constructive discharge on May 18, 2022.”

An initial hearing is scheduled for early December.