Risk Manager Reinstated

By HEATHER CATHLEEN COX Staff Writer repo@sbnewspaper.com

SBCISDSan Benito CISD Superintendent of Schools Antonio G. Limón elected to reinstate Janie Gonzalez to her former position of risk manager with the school district on Tuesday morning.

Gonzalez was fired in September for allegedly being untruthful regarding electronic communication she had had with Robert Champion Jr. of Salazar Insurance Group. In May, Gonzalez drafted a (now infamous) letter at School Board President Yliana G. Rodriguez’s behest which called for the immediate instatement of SIG and Champion as the district’s insurance agent – even though the district’s current agent, Bob Treviño Insurance, was under contract with the district for at least one more year and such an action violates board policy which explains such decisions must be made by the board as a collective unit.

Gonzalez, with the help of attorney Cindy Garcia, filed a Level 3 grievance with SBCISD in an attempt to regain her job. The grievance was dismissed by Planner/Evaluator Ruben Franco at Level 3, when Franco did not reinstate Gonzalez.

In October, Gonzalez took her grievance before the school board, to the penultimate Level 4. The board, in a vote of 4-3, suggested that Limón reinstate Gonzalez; however, on October 19, after taking over a week to review Franco’s multi-page findings, Limon said, “I still find I had cause to terminate Gonzalez, and my choice is not to reinstate her. That’s the bottom line.”

The board, inarguably split down the middle concerning Gonzalez’s case, has prompted some trustees such as Oscar Medrano to question motives and intent. At the time of Limón’s decision not to reinstate Gonzalez at the Level 4 grievance, Medrano agreed with the superintendent.

Regarding his decision to reinstate Gonzalez, the superintendent said, “Janie Gonzalez asked to meet with me, and I met with her this morning (Tuesday) and (Gonzalez’s supervisor) Emma McCall. Janie asked for a second opportunity to prove herself.”

This debacle between Gonzalez, members of the school board and the superintendent and many variations of differing opinions has left voting members of the community with concerns.

“People deserve second chances, I think,” said Maria Espinoza, 32, who works in the restaurant industry. “But when someone gets caught as a liar, why should we give them a job serving people and with the [SBCISD]? I don’t think it’s right.”

“Throughout my 35-year career,” Limón said, “I have given many employees second opportunities. To me, regardless of what level it’s gone through, if an employee is genuinely repentant, I have always given that opportunity.”

Medrano said, “Mr. Limón runs the daily operations of the district. It’s in his right to reinstate her when he chooses. I am not happy with the decision, but I will respect it.”

Diana Salazar is a 54-year-old homemaker in San Benito. She said, “I don’t know what’s all going on, but I don’t agree with it. It doesn’t sound like [Limón] should’ve reinstated her. It raises some eyebrows.”

The decision was sudden to Franco, who said on Tuesday, “I was totally unaware that [Gonzalez] was going to be coming back.” He would not address his feelings on Limón’s decision to reinstate her, saying, “whether it was correct or incorrect is not for me to say.”

To that note, Medrano said, “At the end of the day, Limón makes the decisions because he is the superintendent. He is the one who will have to respond to the community.”

Entrepreneur David Sandoval, 28, stated, “[The reinstatement] sounds shady, and it doesn’t make sense. If the superintendent wanted to give her a chance, why did it take him so long to decide to give the second chance?”

Limón stood by his decision on October 19, and his comments to the News on November 5 he also shared with conviction. He said, “All I know is Janie is back at work, and I am looking forward to her doing a good job.”

The decision to reinstate Gonzalez came a day before the superintendent is scheduled to receive an evaluation from the school board. Limón, however, denied his evaluation having any influence on reinstating Gonzalez. “As far as I know, that special meeting deals with setting goals,” the superintendent said. “That is a normal type of a meeting. That meeting had nothing to do with the decision to reinstate Janie.”

The special meeting will be held immediately following a board workshop at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday

Editor’s Note: Janie Gonzalez is one of the best risk managers we know. She is honest, straightforward, competent and ethical. Her work ethic is unmatched.