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State monitor will oversee Donna (Texas) district

Texas Education Agency steps in after finding that Donna board members abused their authority.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has appointed a monitor to oversee the Donna Independent School District after an investigation found the school district lacks internal controls as a result of trustees who repeatedly abused their authority.

The San Antonio Express News reports that Linda Romeros has been appointed monitor of the district. She will report to the state education commissioner on the Donna district's financial status and assist with oversight of the financial management and governance of the district.

The TEA investigation found that the Donna district contracted with one of its school board members, and he failed to exclude himself from district matters from which he financially benefited.

In another instance, according to the letter, two former board members abused their authority when they solicited and accepted monetary gifts from an district contractor and failed to file conflict disclosure statements.

Those former board trustees, Eloy Infante and Elpidio Yanez, pleaded guilty last year to bribery charges and were sentenced to prison.

And in yet another example of abuse, the letter says four former trustees infringed on the authority of the superintendent regarding the administrative responsibility for the assignment of district personnel.

In April 2016, a federal jury found that the Donna district and four school board members retaliated against district employees who did not support them politically. In the wake of the jury’s findings, the school district agreed to a settlement that included the district paying $880,000 to seven district employees who were subjected to reassignment and salary cuts following the November 2014 elections.

The violations found by the TEA were based on actions by people no longer on the school board, the district's lawyers said in a letter to the TEA.

“The Board is working tirelessly to not only uphold its ethical and fiduciary duty to [the district] and its citizenry but to repair any damage done,” the letter states.

The Donna district will be responsible for paying the monitor’s $75 per hour fee, plus travel expenses. 

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