BISD meeting incites violence, court battle
A three-hour long Beaumont Independent School District Board of Trustees meeting held Thursday, March 21, ended with one trustee facing assault charges and the majority of the board voting to bring in Houston lawyers to ready for a legal battle at the Texas Supreme Court.
The meeting included roughly 45 minutes of public comments focused mainly on the recent Texas 9th Court of Appeals ruling that would require BISD to hold a May 11 election utilizing a redistricting map adopted by the trustees Feb. 21 and subsequently rescinded on March 8. The court ruled the March 8 action be voided since BISD trustees’ decision to rescind the Feb. 21 map only left the district with a 2001 districting map that was out of compliance with federal provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Also as part of the court’s ruling, all the district’s trustee seats would be up for election May 11. Three current trustees – District 1’s Terry Williams, District 2’s Zenobia Bush, and District 3’s Woodrow Reeece - who did not file to retain their seats would be removed, replaced with the only persons to file for those seats. Donna Forgas in District 1, Marcelino Rodriguez in District 2, and Linda Gilmore in District 3 did file for those seats in a timely fashion, the court ruled. Forgas, Rodriguez, and Gilmore are to be added to the May 11 ballot as unopposed candidates for their respective seats.
Allegations of race-baiting and loser’s remorse peppered the citizen comment section, with one man having to be escorted from the speaker’s podium by BISD police. Those speaking on behalf of the trustees are fighting to keep their seats said, “When I went to the poll, I voted for the person I wanted to represent me and my child;” and claimed that the opposition, “was on a hateful and vindictive mission to take down this board.” Citizens in favor of the 9th Court of Appeals ruling said this day has been long coming: “This is not because of what we are doing, it’s because of what you are doing – and what you have done.”
Following the public comments, that included roughly 20 speakers, a member of the audience was approached by District 1 Trustee Terry Williams in a hostile manner, resulting in a physical confrontation. According to the complaining victim, Williams hit him “with a chest-bump” before asking him to “let’s take this outside.” BISD Police Sgt. Danny Moore said he was investigating the matter, and the victim did file assault charges against the elected board trustee.
Williams then entered a closed executive session with the rest of the board, where again, tempers flared to the point of confrontational contention. Several trustees could be heard yelling before exiting the private room, with District 7 Trustee Janice Brassard attempting to leave the premises with a bevy of school officials and BISD police trailing behind in efforts to get her to stay. Brassard did stay – for a little while. She never returned to her seat after the executive session fiasco ended.
The remaining trustees did return to finish the meeting, however, affirming a new Ozen High School head coach in Keith McGee and a new legal team in that of Houston-based Brazil & Dunn. The new law firm will be added to the BISD payroll for the express purpose of challenging the recent 9th Court of Appeals BISD election ruling to the Texas Supreme Court. Trustees said the board will meet with their specialized legal reps in an evening meeting on Monday, March 25.
BISD board attorney Melody Chappell said any new voting scheme that will be enacted in Beaumont for the May election will first have to garner Department of Justice clearance before it can be effective. According to her, a package was submitted to the DOJ for approval on March 19.