Thursday, November 17, 2016


By Juan Montoya
Remember back in April of 2013 when Baltazar Salazar came to the Brownsville Independent School District board podium to make his pitch for the lucrative legal gig and he stressed the fact that he was a straight shooter who would "stab you in the front" in contrast to others who would stab you in the back.
He looked at trustee Minerva Peña and said pointedly: "I've known some of you since I was a kid," and said his goal was "not to make money."
He promised he would "tone down your legal expenses" and bring "stability, because you have chaos, and when there's chaos, lawyers make money."
The school district, he told them, had "become a cash cow" because the district did not follow procedure and said he was there "to serve the board as a whole."
Well, it appears that despite his Herculean efforts to keep down legal costs as promised, the cow is out of the barn and headed down the road to be milked once again, thanks in no small part to this dubious legal eagle.
In a compilation performed by BISD auditors and this February indicates that the large amounts of legal fees that the board majority complained about before Salazar came on board have nearly been duplicated in 2015 and that 2016 (when compiled) will be comparable to the past year.

Records of legal costs between 2005-2006 to 2014- to June, 2015 indicate that the BISD has spent $5,526,240 million for external attorneys. Since 2013, when Salazar was hired until June 2015, the district spent $1,623,602, or about 30 percent of the $5.5 million. In other words, in the two years that Salazar has been board counsel, the district has spent one-third what was spent in the past 10 years. Things, in fact, have gotten worse under his watch.

In 2011, the BISD set up their own Legal Dept. and spent $99,586. This increased to $197,188 by June 2015, the scope of the auditors' compilation. Over that time, BISD has spent $197,188 on its in-house legal help. Add that to the $1,623,602 paid for external attorneys under Salazar, and the real price that BISD taxpayers have had to foot becomes clearer.

In fact, the former legal counsel – Thompson and Horton LLP – earned the wrath of the  BISD board majority who cited this spending as a justification for bringing Salazar on board. What happened to the promises to hold down legal costs? Has anything really changed?

Under his contract, Salazar is considered an "external attorney" since he is under contract with the district and not a BISD employee. In 2015, his $264,000 salary topped all "external attorney" payments. The closest external attorney paid that year was $74,109 paid to Harltine, Dacus, Barger, Dreyer LLP. The next on the feeding line was Aguilar and Zabarte LLC with $74.079.

In FY 2014, it was Salazar again leading the "external attorney" outlays with $246,000, Christopher Jonas (of Special Needs due process infamy) with $95,500, followed by William Birnbirg and Anderson LLP with $60,932.

In fact, the list of attorneys who have profited from Salzar's tenure at the BISD have been the attorney firm he replaced, Thompson and Horton LLP. They received $282,245 for 2013, and $20,907 in 2014.

Why the outside counsel in cases involving BISD? Could it be because Salazar is not an education law specialist? In fact, his firm was not ranked among the first four picks of the board when they compared their qualifications for school law. As a result, the district has had to farm out its legal work to other firms because Salazar does not possess the experience in education law to service the district's needs. He does, however, enjoy the support of political biggies such as Texas Sen. Eddie Lucio to whgom he is related through family.

During the election, many candidates promised to scale down on the legal costs of the district. One obvious place to start would seem to be the overpaid office of the board counsel. We'll see just how serious they were in their campaign promises.


Anonymous said...

You've been around the block, juan. Why all the questioning? Salazar is Lucio is Cowen is Saenz is Trevino is Martinez. Get your shit togther, bro.

chief cool arrow said...

round and round it goes, so long as the taxpayers pay, bisd board will spent it any way they see fit or not. lol moo moo moo cash cow baby. cca

Anonymous said...

baltazar Salazar is he a board member ?

he wants to run BISD..........

Anonymous said...

Cati warned us all about this, but no one would listen. So what difference does it make since nothing is done about it. In the first place, how does one become an employee of the district after a criminal record is there. Check that out for us Mr. Juan.

Anonymous said...

Hey isn't that Salazar guy the board atty. Is he in charge of all of the legal cases in BISD or is her royal majesty zendejas calling the shots on who gets hired for BISD cases? Come on Juanio get the scoop.

Anonymous said...

Porque no lo quieres juan. The guy is awesome. He pays people's tab, let's them use his taxi cab contract for trips to the island and mcallen, donated to campaigns. Maybe you on his good side. These are good benefits he provides to his friends. I know you're not on the board but, if your friends are he will not let you down. Salazar is very generous. Specially with the districts money. Hahaha

Anonymous said...

Lets just hope this new board with the two newly elected board members get this scum of the earth out. But I don't think so. He's donated to two of the board members so their obligated to him now. It will be up to Cowen however we are in the same boat as we were when Cata Presas was on board. Cowan will be the only single member but he will be outnumbered in votes. I hope Cowen puts the rest of the board members on notice that corruption will not be tolerated.

Anonymous said...

Did you see the meeting last night. Cowen and Pena sat next to Atkinson and checked with her before they made a move and then looked at her for approval after they talked their head off - over the 2 minutes Salazar was suppose to keep track off. Y la Perez-Reyes did open her mouth unless it was to yawn. Not a word, not a question, for she knew nothing about what was going on. Y la Sylvia se hizo garas con su sabelo todo attitude and obnoxious personality. I give Perez-Reyes two or three meetings before she resigns to take care of her babies. This town does not recognize high expectations and stern demands for they cry fowl when they are made to work to earn their money. They are making their bed and they are going to have to lie on it and regret their actions later - oops, in Brownsville there is no such thing. Nadie tiene vuerguenz!

Anonymous said...

as I saw it, Cowen has already join the Sylvia team. He is out of touch with board regulations and thinks his lawyer degree makes him better than anyone. Correcting an agenda item for a mispunctuation is the least of his worries. He himself made a comment, yo si me voy me voy a la porter. Cowen, it's "Yo si le voy, le voy a la Porter! Everyone makes mistakes verdad? Watch it cause you are surrounded by two snakes sitting next to you. What did pull out of a sack and give to Sylvia and then Sylvia passed it to Minnie Mouse. Your Bible?

Anonymous said...

I saw the meeting last night, Dr.Z knows what is going on she is part of the corruption. So what difference does it make since nothing is done about it.
corruption at BISD !
corruption AT BISD !

Anonymous said...

Dr. Z is not part of the corruption!! She is hired by the board and follows their directives. As soon as a corrupt activity is ordered from her, she will sure turn it over to TEA, to FBI or somebody who is not related to anyone down here that is covering up. Serves us right if Dr. Z leaves this trashy district that she has been trying to make shine in less than an year that she has been at the helm. She does not need to work, but BISD needs her - the children do - because the adults do not like to be told they are not living up to their expectations. After she left the last time she was here, everyone soon realized that all was going down the drain and wished they had known better. She would be super smart to walk out and leave la Sylvia to handle the things with the corruption and the horrible disposition that she has in addressing people. Those who back her up are the ones that have been told they are not living up to their expectations and are upset with DR. Z.

Anonymous said...