Discussions became heated at last week's meeting of the Robstown Independent School District Board of Trustees after a majority vote gave an auditing firm a three-year contract over the objections of other board members.
Trustees discussed the hiring of a company to conduct the district's annual financial audit, with two proposals heard during the April 26 meeting. Local auditing firm Ernest Garza presented first, followed by Rene Gonzalez, with Garza/Gonzalez and Associates, which is operated out of San Antonio.
Garza/Gonzalez and Associates has conducted audits for school districts throughout San Antonio, as well as the Pearsall Independent School District, the former school district of RISD Superintendent Alfonso Obregon. Obregon said he recommended the firm to the board because he felt Garza/Gonzalez and Associates would be beneficial to the district.
Prior to that agenda item being discussed, former RISD Trustee Victor Orona addressed the board about his concerns for the action to be taken that night, including his own opposition to the possible selection of Ernest Garza.
"Is it always about politics and who you know in order to give them what they want or for you to get what you want?" Orona asked. "No, it shouldn't be (like that)."
After the two firms made their proposals, Trustee Eva Orona made a motion to award the contract to Garza/Gonzalez and Associates. However, none of the other trustees in attendance - Richard Gonzalez, Ernest Gallegos, Robert Tapia, Adolfo Lopez and Osvaldo Romero - seconded the motion, defeating her proposal.
Tapia then recommended the contract be awarded to Ernest Garza, but Eva Orona immediately raised an objection to the motion. She then accused Tapia and Romero of regularly meeting with Garza outside of board meetings.
"I find that (to be) a big illegal action on your part and if no one out there in the public is concerned, then it really raises a flag as to why people are not concerned, because that's a big concern for me," she said.
"Well, you know what I have to say to that? If it's illegal, call the cops. Go file charges," snapped Romero.
Following Eva Orona's comments, Tapia asked for an amendment to his motion, one that would extend the one-year contract to a term of three years in order to lock in Garza's fee and avoid an increase in future audits. Garza will be paid $38,000 for the annual audits.
"Wow," Eva Orona said in response to Tapia's motion. "It's not your money, that's why you're doing it."
"Whatever," Tapia replied.
Trustees approved the amendment, as proposed by Tapia, in a 4-2 vote, with Lopez and Orona against. Board members then awarded the contract to Ernest Garza in a 5-1 vote, with Orona the only trustee against the motion.
In other school business:
Trustees approved a group of invoices for ongoing construction projects around the district in a 3-1 vote, but Lopez questioned an amendment made by Romero to include a $6,000 payment to Broaddus and Associates.
The firm was the project manager for the new elementary school being built at the site of the old Robert Driscoll Stadium, but trustees last month had approved paying the firm only its contract amount of $21,500, rather than including the additional $6,000 in that payment.
Romero said he wanted to just pay the firm what it was owed and be done with the matter, but Lopez argued that the invoice had not been recommended to the board by Obregon, who was not in attendance at the meeting, and that the board had already decided to pay Broaddus the contract amount. The motion was approved 3-1, with Lopez against.
The meeting was called early after three of the trustees attending left at various times of the night, leaving a lack of quorum.
Those trustees were Orona, Gonzalez and Gallegos. At least four board members must be in attendance during a posted meeting in order for any action or discussion to take place on school business.