DONNA, Texas – The president of the Donna Independent School District (ISD), Albert Sandoval, hired a convicted felon to be general counsel for the district and agreed to pay him $300,000 per year in retainer fees plus $225 per hour for legal services. The negotiating of the contract with Robert J. Salinas, and his hiring was done without input from the school board.
Breitbart Texas’ Ildefonso Ortiz previously reported that Salinas was hired at a rate that was over three times the retainer that was paid to his predecessor, the law firm of Guerra & Farah. That firm was paid an $8,000 per month retainer and Salinas was awarded a $25,000 per month retainer. A source close to the school district confirmed the contract and hiring details and that Sandoval was given the authority to take the action on his own by the newly sworn-in school board members.
Not only is Salinas being paid three times what the prior firm was being paid, the negotiated contract pays significantly more than what some of the largest school districts in Texas pay for their general counsel positions. Melvin Waxler is the general counsel for the Austin Independent School District. Austin ISD has a student population of about 85,000 students. Donna ISD has approximately 14,000 students. Waxler receives a salary of $186,832 per year. Houston ISD serves more than 200,000 students and yet they pay Elneita Hutchins-Taylor $175,912 to be their general counsel.
The outrageous sum of $300,000 plus hourly billings at $225 per hour are being paid to an attorney who was previously convicted of money laundering and spent time in federal prison. Some board members told Breitbart Texas they were unaware of Salinas’ criminal past until the news broke this week.
This writer also learned that Salinas has no prior school related legal experience from a source close to the district. This became apparent at the emergency school board meeting when Salinas allowed the agenda item of the superintendent’s employment status to be placed on the public meeting portion of the board meeting. The board had to take action to move the employee matter to a closed-door portion of the meeting to protect the superintendent’s rights.
The district also improperly suspended police sergeant Daniel Walden who was later reinstated. Salinas appears to have allowed the assistant superintendent to place Walden on unpaid suspension at the request of Donna ISD Police Chief Roy Padilla. The assistant superintendent does not have to authority to take that action according to Superintendent Jesus Reyna.
Two other employees were also reinstated last week after being suspended.
This article has been updated.
Bob Price is a senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.