S-T school leader asks for whistle-blower protection
by Jason Collins
Oct 14, 2013 | 535 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SKIDMORE – Skidmore-Tynan Superintendent Dr. Brett Belmarez writes that he is formally seeking protection under the whistle-blower act.

“As the superintendent of schools in Skidmore-Tynan ISD, I can and very well may be subject to attempted retaliation by my employer for making this report,” Belmarez writes in a letter dated Sept. 30 to District Attorney Jose Aliseda.

Following a four-hour executive session, trustees unanimously approved an investigation into allegations made by the superintendent.

“I move the board authorize the board president and legal counsel to proceed with retaining an appropriate person to conduct an investigation of allegations made by the superintendent in accordance with board policy DIA local,” Trustee Troy Hughes said.

DIA local, according to information on the district’s website, deals with employee welfare and freedom from discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

Board President James Bennett said that he could not discussion the allegation as it is part of an ongoing investigation

This all stems from Belmarez’s filing a complaint that members of the board met illegally earlier this year — in violation of the open meetings act.

In a letter dated April 25 to Belmarez, Aliseda said that the open meetings violation complaint was handed over to County Attorney Mike Knight.

“This letter is to advise you that Open Meetings Action violations are misdemeanors and therefore prosecuted by the Bee County attorney,” Aliseda wrote in the letter, released by the school district in response to a freedom of information request.

This all dates back to April when Belmarez first made his concerns known. He cautioned the board at that time that “others” may have participated in what the open meetings act terms a “walking quorum,” in which members of a board use social media to discuss and decide on subjects that should be addressed in a public meeting.

In the letter to the DA, released as part of the open records request, Belmarez writes, “Please understand that there are not just specific events, but a pattern that should be examined to reveal an ongoing violation pattern using new technologies. The methodology for these violations of the act mostly involves using new technologies that are deceptive and inventive. It is as if they can only be planned and organized by one who is trained and skilled in the art of deception.”

The letter alleges that a quorum of trustees met to discuss school issues that should be talked about only during a posted, public board meeting.

According to the letter, “When these combined meetings are held in a manner that is the same as an ongoing board meeting, there is no written notice of the date, hour, place and subject of the meeting in order to make the meeting open to the public.”

Belmarez excluded both Trustee Gabriel Soto and now former board president Keith Petrus from the accusation.

The letter concludes, “Diligent observation of these actions has led to the conclusion that a majority of Skidmore-Tynan ISD school board trustees are in a behavioral pattern that makes these violations of the act the normal operating procedure for a majority of the board of trustees. ‘Walking quorums,’ ‘rolling board meetings,’ and a ‘shadow board of trustees’ are discussing and making decisions about school district matters in a secretive, yet sophisticated manner.”

Belmarez said that these recent actions by the board have had adverse effects on the district and the schools.

The letter further reads, “It should also be noted that there is public knowledge that three sitting trustees have spouses who have displayed animosity toward the district’s administration, primarily the superintendent of schools.

“These individuals previously resigned their employment from the district and continue to display ill will toward school district decision-makers...

“The Skidmore-Tynan ISD governmental operation is being negatively affected.

“Students are now realizing the negative effects of these reported actions, and good employees and the trusting public are turned off and ‘chased off’ by not having an open and transparent government accessible to all.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at
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