Two banners claiming nepotism violations by Coastal Bend College President, Dr. Beatriz Espinoza, appeared recently. The banners, apparently sponsored by a local organization “Rebuild Coastal Bend College” were on Adams Street adjacent to the The Corner Laundry and on a fence before Tractor Supply Company.
This banner, on the north end of town, highlights what at least one person claims is a violation. The county attorney recently reviewed these allegations and found that the Coastal Bend College board was within state law to make the hire.
BEEVILLE – The hiring of the college president’s sister did not violate any nepotism laws, says County Attorney Mike Knight.
“You ask a fair question which deserves a fair answer, notwithstanding the way in which you have gone about it,” Knight wrote in his response to allegations made recently by a professor at Del Mar College.
In at least two parts of the city, signs question what at least one person considers the actions of Coastal Bend College President Beatriz Espinoza.
Each sign holds a simple message—“Nepotism violations filed.”
The charges stem from the college board’s hiring of Julia Garcia, Espinoza’s sister, as CBC dean of workforce.
Knight’s opinion issued and made available on Monday was in response to complaints made by Gerald A. Sansing, professor of biology at Del Mar College, who has taken up this cause.
According to Knight, “Basically, you allege that CBC violated state nepotism laws as contained in Section 573 of the Texas Government Code by the above referenced hiring.”
Knight outlined in his opinion what would constitute someone being considered a public official for the purposes of the nepotism violation.
In this case, Knight cited prior instances which substantiated that the college president is not a public official as would be necessary to be included in the nepotism rules.
“... furthermore that by statute, employment decisions are vested in the college board of trustees, and no amount of delegation can abdicate that final statutory authority or control,” Knight wrote.
“Therefore, a nepotism violation could only occur if Dean Garcia was related within the prohibited degree to one of the trustees. No one has alleged such a relationship with one of the trustees.
“The CBC Board of Trustees exercise of their business discretion absent violation of state law is not subject to review by this office, and no opinion is otherwise offered.”
Board Chair Carroll W. Lohse agreed with Knight, saying, “That is what I expected because of the fact it seems that those who have been interested in this are hanging on some old attorney general’s opinions that have been superseded by court cases.
“I am wondering why they persist when it has been ruled differently.”
Sansing isn’t content with this opinion by the county attorney.
“I disagree with the documents cited by Bee County Attorney Michael J. Knight,” Sansing wrote in an e-mail. “His cited documents deal with independent school district administrators. I will be seeking expert legal counsel and legal opinions from other Texas state agencies.”
Knight’s opinion is one echoed by trustees earlier when these allegations were first circulated.
About 10 months ago, during an election debate then board member Paul Jaure said, “Yes, we have a nepotism policy, but it is only for board members.”
He said that the hiring of Garcia was a decision made by the board and was in the best interest of the college. She is not related to anyone on the board and thus able to be hired.
Sansing says that he has heard from the state attorney general.
“The Attorney General’s Office in charge of nepotism stated that the 1978 letter stating that community college presidents were subject to the nepotism statute was still currently in effect,” he said in an e-mail. “The college president has a statutory role in the selection of employees and is the only person authorized to make recommendations to the board of trustees.
“This joint responsibility makes both the president and the board of trustees liable for upholding nepotism laws.”
Board Vice Chair Laura Fischer assured those concerned that they take all nepotism concerns seriously and are well aware of the law.
She recalled one adjunct professor who was not hired several years back because of his relation to a board member.
“We could not hire that person,” she said. “The board hires the people.”
She said they are even adding a line to applications where candidates must identify if they are related to a board member.
Fischer said that in response to the hiring of Garcia, “Yes, she was the best candidate for the position.”
Lohse said that this opinion by Knight is just another piece that will serve to keep the college on a what they call a “positive track.”
“I personally think the college is getting back on track,” Lohse said. “I don’t know why there are some individuals that want to keep us from getting back on track.”
He and Fischer both highlighted recent employee contributions to the Coastal Bend College Foundation as proof that morale is improving.
“That has gone up dramatically this year over last year,” he said. “I think that overall employee feeling and morale has got to be improving.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5221, or at editor@mySouTex.com.