in Houston, Texas
El Paso ISD trustees delay decision on putting more information online
Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012, 04:38PM CST
By Curt Olson
delay

El Paso Independent School District trustees seem stuck in the mud on how to improve transparency in an atmosphere of scandal that screams for immediate action.

In a split 4-3 decision, El Paso ISD trustees opposed putting more financial information online under the premise that doing so prevents the district from getting best prices on contracts, the El Paso Times reports. Trustees tabled the matter until the board’s next meeting.

The move comes amid increasing impatience from El Pasoans that trustees do something to re-establish public trust. The group Kids First! Reform EPSID!, which is a political action committee seeking district reforms following the guilty plea of former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia in a cheating scandal, pushed trustees for more online access to back-up information of issues trustees discuss at their meetings.

The group has a petition effort underway on its website calling for the resignation of trustees “who openly failed to perform your duties even after being advised of irregularities.”

While a majority of trustees delayed a decision, one trustee said it’s time to restore the board’s shattered credibility.

“It’s about public trust. At this point we’re not trusted very much and if this means, if somebody has to look at our checkbook because they aren’t sure what we’re doing with it, I can’t say no to that,” Trustee Rocio Benedicto said, according to the Times.

Board President Isela Castanon-Williams last fall supported a loophole that allowed the district to withhold from online posting agenda documents involving any “situation where the board president and/or superintendent concludes that the best interest of the district would not be served.” But in this week’s discussion, Castanon-Williams said the district should err on the side of disclosure.

The trustees’s decision does nothing to burnish an already lackluster transparency record.

A state monitor was asked by the district’s lawyer to step out of a closed-door meeting one week ago because, he said, her presence violated attorney-client privilege. El Paso ISD trustees have allowed a community advisory group, which is charged with helping trustees improve governance, to close its meetings. And trustees blamed state open meetings law for their failure to supervise an internal audit.

For now, taxpayers must accept the baby steps of progress at EPISD.

***
Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

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Illustration of 'delayed' by flickr user WaveBreaker, used via a Creative Commons license.

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