Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Four Harlandale trustees voted unanimously Monday night to accept the voluntary resignation and retirement of Superintendent Rey Madrigal, who was proposed for termination on July 1 and up until Monday’s meeting had been fighting the board’s decision.
The four trustees – Ricardo Moreno, Elaine Anaya-Ortiz, Liz Limon, and Juan Mancha – did not provide any details about what kind of agreement was made with Madrigal to procure his resignation but hinted it might save the district some money.
“I would just like to say that I think that this motion shows that we are fiscally responsible and I think it is we owe that to the taxpayers of the district to be as fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of this district as we can,” Anaya-Ortiz said.
Madrigal’s resignation takes effect immediately, Moreno said, but he declined to provide further information after the meeting, telling reporters to seek the information through a public information request.
Separation agreements can be lucrative for superintendents being bought out of their contracts. In 2017, there were 22 buyouts of superintendent contracts in Texas, with the average buyout amount totaling close to $140,000.
Moreno told reporters they would find the board acted in a financially responsible way in choosing this path forward instead of continuing to fight with Madrigal over the termination.
As of Monday afternoon, this path had seemed uncertain. When asked if his client would consider a settlement agreement, Jay Brim, Madrigal’s attorney, seemed surprised.
“We certainly hope something can be worked out between the Board and the Superintendent,” Brim wrote in an e-mail to the Rivard Report.
Harlandale attorneys said Madrigal offered his resignation on Monday, but they did not specify a time.
Prior to the board’s vote, trustees met in closed session for about an hour and a half. Yelling could be heard from within the closed room.
After the meeting, Moreno said the board’s unanimous vote showed that the board “work[s] well together.” Trustees Christine Carrillo and Zeke Mendoza were absent from Monday night’s meeting. Former Trustee David Abundis submitted his resignation earlier this summer and his seat has not been filled.
Harlandale’s board voted to begin termination proceedings for Madrigal on July 1, just days after the State said it would intervene in the district and replace trustees with a board of appointed managers. State sanctions also called for the appointment of a new superintendent and a conservator, who can override board decisions.
Madrigal had appealed his termination and had a tentative hearing set, according to his attorney. Madrigal, who worked for Harlandale for more than three decades, was on paid administrative leave.
One of the school district’s attorneys, Kevin O’Hanlon, told reporters that Harlandale intended to use the State’s investigative findings to seek Madrigal’s termination.
After more than a year investigating Harlandale, Texas Education Agency officials found Madrigal had entered into agreements and made payments to an engineering consultant firm without board approval. This action violated State and local policy, the report said.
Harlandale attorneys previously defended Madrigal’s actions in an appeal letter to TEA, saying that the board of trustees had the power to “delegate contractual authority” to district staff.
Should a school board want to end the employment of the district’s current superintendent, trustees can initiate termination proceedings or negotiate a settlement to end the district chief’s contract.
State law mandates that a district can’t pay a superintendent more than one year’s salary and benefits in a severance package. If a district does, the State can dock the district’s funding by the amount that exceeds one year’s salary and benefits.
Madrigal’s annual salary was more than $216,000 in the 2018-19 school year, according to TEA data. Madrigal’s contract ran through the end of June 2021, after the board voted in January to extend it again. Madrigal was hired as superintendent in February 2013.
Harlandale attorneys echoed Moreno’s suggestion to file a public information request for the separation agreement with Madrigal. Attorney Albert Tovar said the request would be complied with to the letter of the law.
The Texas Public Information Act mandates governmental entities “promptly produce” the information or contest the request within 10 business days.