“You give enough money, it doesn’t matter how poor you perform, you’re going to get the contract — at least in La Joya…..”
La Joya ISD’s former insurance agent said trustees breached their contract and favored campaign supporters, according to a lawsuit filed against the district and trustees.
Ruth Villarreal served as the district’s insurance agent from 2006 until the board of trustees terminated her services in January. The district renewed her contract as recently as last year, months before a new board of trustees replaced her with Pharr-based insurance agent Bob Treviño.
Attorneys for Villarreal allege in the lawsuit filed this month in state District Court that trustees made the move because Treviño supported the Team Liberty slate in November school board elections. During the campaign, the lawsuit alleges, trustees “openly expressed their intention to exclusively award contracts to their supporters, including Defendant Trevino who was one of their main supporters.”
“You give enough money, it doesn’t matter how poor you perform, you’re going to get the contract — at least in La Joya,” said Javier Peña, an attorney for Villarreal.
The lawsuit names trustees Joel Garcia, Juan Jose “JJ” Garza, Jesus “Chuy” Avendano, and Oscar “Coach” Salinas individually as defendants as well as Treviño and an employee, Carmen Ramirez.
In response to the allegation that the contract was steered toward a campaign supporter, Salinas said “that’s not the fact.” He referred additional questions to the district’s legal counsel.
The four trustees were part of the five-person slate that ousted the previous board with the support of incumbents Juan Jose Peña Jr. and Johnn Alaniz. Peña voted against the deal with Treviño, while Espie Ochoa, another Team Liberty candidate, abstained.
La Joya ISD attorney Jaime Muñoz said the district denies any and all liability with respect to the lawsuit.
“It’s based on a breach of contract violation, which the district denies having any contractual obligations to (Ruth) Villarreal,” he said.
Villarreal’s lawsuit claims $2.16 million in commissions as well as other damages and attorney fees.
In the same January meeting in which trustees terminated Villarreal’s contract, they also terminated delinquent tax collection attorneys Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson in favor of rival firm Perdue Brandon Fielder Collins and Mott LLP.