A judge ruled Friday that a petition to remove Daniel J. Garcia from the Rio Grande City school board of trustees can move forward, ordering Garcia to appear in court for a July hearing.
Visiting state District Judge David Stith approved the petition that was filed by a former school district employee, Ricardo Lopez, on May 6.
Garcia’s attorney, Gocha Ramirez, declined to comment on the judge’s ruling when reached by phone Friday afternoon, stating he had not had a chance to read the order.
In the removal petition, Lopez cited the federal charges filed against Garcia tied to an alleged scheme to help engineering companies funnel more than $4 million in bribes to Weslaco city commissioners. Prosecutors allege that in exchange, the Weslaco city commissioners voted in favor of awarding contracts to those companies for the overhaul of that city’s water treatment facilities.
The charges against Garcia include wire services fraud and money laundering, according to the federal indictment, to which he pleaded not guilty.
Lopez also claims in the petition that Garcia faces charges related to both his position on the school board and as a defense attorney for Jose Luis Garcia Jr., an 18-year-old charged with capital murder in the 2017 death of 17-year-old Chayse Olivarez.
Lopez, himself, was arrested in November 2017 for allegedly trying to bribe the judge presiding over that murder case at the time, 381st state District Judge Jose Luis Garza.
In the petition, Lopez alleges that Garcia, the school board trustee, is accused of orchestrating that attempt to bribe the judge and that Garcia is accused of using his position on the school board to be hired to represent Jose Luis Garcia Jr.
Garcia allegedly offered a school employee a promotion and/or withheld pay raises to solicit the family of the defendant, Jose Luis Garcia Jr.
Garcia was eventually retained as a defense counsel on the case. However, he has yet to be formally charged on those allegations.
Starr County Attorney Victor Canales is representing the state against Garcia in this case.
Following Judge Stith’s ruling to grant the petition, Canales’ office issued a statement outlining the case against Garcia.
“Oftentimes when someone on a public board is charged with a federal indictment, they step aside to allow the public entity to continue to function without the distraction of the criminal matter,” the county attorney’s office stated. “While Mr. Garcia is certainly entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, any action taken by him while under federal indictment casts a dark shadow on the entity that he was elected to represent.”
The statement went on to say that Garcia’s decision to continue making decisions regarding children and taxpayers’ money “unconscionable” while he was under federal indictment for an alleged scheme that involved “embezzlement, money laundering and kickbacks involving taxpayer monies.”
“Furthermore there are substantial and disturbing allegations regarding Mr. Garcia’s abuse of his former position as RGCCISD School Board President which are currently being investigated by the appropriate authorities,” the statement read.
“It is for these reasons that Mr. Canales has undertaken the rare action of filing to remove a duly elected official from office. It is not a course of action that has been chosen hastily. It is our sincere hope that this case will be resolved quickly and efficiently.”
Garcia is ordered to appear in court on July 5 at 10 a.m.