Two La Joya ISD trustees signal support for special election following guilty pleas

La Joya school board election campiagn sign seen on Friday,March,11,2022 in La Joya. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected])

Two La Joya ISD trustees signaled support for a special election to fill two vacant board seats Wednesday after criticism earlier this month over the prospect of filling those seats by appointment.

Oscar “Coach” Salinas
Armin Garza

Those seats were left empty after former Trustees Oscar “Coach” Salinas and Armin Garza pleaded guilty in federal court to extortion and conspiracy to defraud the United States, respectively, and resigned their seats earlier this year.

Both Salinas and Garza were reelected to four-year terms in November of 2020.

The board was slated to discuss appointing replacements to those seats at a meeting scheduled for March 9. That meeting was postponed because the board couldn’t make a quorum and appointments did not crop up again as items on its agenda until Wednesday.

The prospect of appointing individuals to those seats rather than holding a special election for them prompted criticism from elected officials and community members and an online petition calling for elections that has garnered over 350 signatures.

Ismael Gonzalez, the sole public commenter during Wednesday’s meeting, said appointments wouldn’t be democratic.

“I say ‘we’ because that’s what we the people want,” he said. “We don’t want any appointments.”

Two trustees seemed to agree with him later in the meeting when Trustee Alejandro Cantu asked for special elections to be discussed at the board’s next meeting.

“I know that I think anybody that we recommend at this point from us, you know, would be in my opinion political,” he said. “But I think that the community deserves to choose who they want to represent them at the school board level.”

Trustee Nereyda Cantu seconded that support for special elections.

“I think the vacant spots, like he said, can only be filled by the people,” she said. “That’s for them to decide.”