All talk-No action at CCAISD Special Meeting

Sandy Urias, Romy Ramirez, Jack Dorris, Dalia Benevides, Paul Uranga, Letty Hernandez, Rocio Apgar and Anglie Gonzales study CCAISD Audit as presented by Jack, Jill and Spot.

Photo by Lisa Morton

By Becky Brewster

The Culberson County-Allamoore ISD Board of Trustees met on January 23 in special session to consider a Level Three Grievance filed by District Business Office Manager Julie Uranga against Supt. Dalia Benavidez. At this time, no information is available regarding the content of the grievance.  Attorneys representing both sides of the issue were present.  Lisa Soto, representing Uranga, requested that the Grievance Hearing be held in open session; however, the opposing attorney, Christine Badillo, pointed out that since the grievance was filed against Benavidez, she would be the one to determine whether the hearing was held in open or closed session.  Benavidez chose to have the hearing behind closed doors stating that it was in the “best interest of the District” to have the hearing in closed session.  So those in attendance were excused from the board room to wait…and wait…and wait.

Part way through the hearing, Board President Paul Uranga and Trustee Sandy Urias were sent out of the closed session.  Then, the two attorneys, as well as Benavidez and Uranga, were excused from the board room.  After over two and a half hours, the meeting was finally reconvened with no action to be taken and the board immediately adjourned.

According to District Policy DGBA, the board can render a decision any time up to and including the next regularly scheduled board meeting.  If no decision is rendered, the administrative decision at Level Two is upheld.  Questions were raised as to why the Board chose to conduct this Grievance Hearing on a night when the local attorney on retainer to CCAISD, Steve Mitchell, had a prior commitment rather than scheduling the hearing for another date. Questions were also raised about the process for the Level Two grievance since it would ordinarily have been filed with the Superintendent.  But since the complaint was against the Superintendent, who would have heard the Level Two grievance?  Or if it went straight to a Level Three grievance, there would be no Level Two decision to uphold so the Board would need to render a decision.

Prior to the Grievance Hearing, the Board heard a presentation from the District’s outside auditor regarding the audit for the fiscal year ending 8-31-16.  The District received an “unmodified opinion” on the audit which is the best type of auditor’s opinion to receive.  The auditor reported that the District’s fund balance had increased approximately $1,100,000. The management letter was then reviewed and internal control issues concerning credit card purchases were addressed.  A lengthy discussion ensued about missing credit card receipts and the procedure to process payments.  It was clarified that the receipts for the credit cards were actually turned in; it was the “itemized” receipts that were not always turned in.  The auditor also fielded questions about the technical assistance his office provides to the District noting that they do not provide any management function as that would impair their independence.  The Board then proceeded to approve the audit as presented.

The Van Horn Advocate has submitted an open records request to obtain information relating to the grievance as well as for the District Audit.  Section 552.221(a) of the Public Information Act states that “an officer for public information of a governmental body shall promptly produce public information for inspection, duplication, or both on application by any person to the officer.  In this subsection, ‘promptly’ means as soon as possible under the circumstances, that is, within a reasonable time, without delay.” So, CCAISD has to promptly provide the information that is requested or a determination that the information is not public based on one or more of the exceptions under Subchapter C. This determination has to be provided within a “reasonable” time, but not later than the tenth business day after receipt of the request for information.