LA JOYA, Texas – A western Hidalgo County community leader who has a child at La Joya ISD has started a petition to have new elections held for two vacant slots on the school district’s board of trustees.

Alexia Anne Solis, pictured above, says an election needs to be held in order to restore the trust of the general public. 

“For years our community has known about the corruption and bribery deals. It has left us feeling deflated, voiceless, and with the belief that it could never go away,” Solis told the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, in an exclusive interview.

“However, several elected officials pleading guilty on various federal charges have led me to believe that change is possible. I am optimistic that we can overcome the legacy of corruption.”

Trustee Oscar “Coach” Salinas resigned from the board after pleading guilty to an attempt to extort money from a contractor with the school district. 

Trustee Armin Garza resigned from the board in January after confessing to accepting more than a quarter of a million in bribes. 

Editor’s Note: The Department of Justice’s news releases about their guilty pleas have been posted at the end of this story.

Last week, the La Joya ISD’s board of trustees were due to meet to appoint successors to Salinas and Garza. However, the board could not get a quorum and its meeting was postponed. 

Appointing new board members will not restore the public’s trust, said community leader Solis. Here is what Solis wrote in the petition she posted on the website:

Petition: Let Us Decide

For years, our community has been silent for fear of retaliation. Fear cannot be the reason to remain quiet when our leaders display behaviors that create mistrust. To build trust and heal the relationship between the community and its leaders, we must unite and speak up. We must restore an equity-based community engagement, we need to accept others’ opinions without recourse, and we need to put the communities voice first.

Enough is enough! As a community, we must take back what is ours! The abuse of power must come to an end! We need to demand that our voices be heard! We need to stop living in fear and start living graciously and actively in our community, knowing that we can agree to disagree but that our goal is common; we most importantly want what is best for our children and our community. We can be STRONGER TOGETHER!

To my community, the time is now! Our voice can no longer be silenced; we need to SPEAK UP and be heard!   

I am asking you to stand with me and sign this petition asking our La Joya ISD School Board to call a special election so WE can select and elect our School Board.

To our La Joya ISD School Board of Trustees, I ask you to let us decide who will represent us! Restore the trust that our community deserves. 


Let’s end this vicious cycle and restore the community’s trust!

Do Not Leave Us Voiceless

In her interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Solis said she has done her best to be actively involved in her community.

“Whether serving in the drainage committee with the city of Palmview, questioning processes with Agua SUD, and most importantly, staying on top of my son’s education at La Joya ISD, I have stayed active,” Solis said.

“When last week’s school board agenda was posted, stating that there was possible action on appointing two trustees to fill the vacancies, conversations of concern started happening.”

Solis said that at first she agreed with the school board appointing successors to Salinas and Garza.

“That way, the taxpayers would not be left with the financial burden of holding an election. But, I had a change of heart when reviewing district expenditures, the time remaining for each vacant seat, and rumors of the names being considered.”

Solis said restoring the community’s trust shouldn’t come with a price tag.

“Plus, we can’t continue to allow a select few to decide for us because that’s what got us in the mess we are currently facing. With Wednesday’s board meeting being postponed, I felt this would be a great way to engage with my community and start an online petition asking our school board to reconsider appointing new trustees and instead call for a special election.”

Solis said La Joya ISD school board needs to engage with the community to overcome its current challenges in order to strengthen accountability and transparency. 

“To rebuild the broken trust and move our community forward, they need to include us in the process and not leave us voiceless again,” Solis said.

“We need our leaders to make a sincere effort to acknowledge the problem of trust and take steps to improve, and that first step is to call a special election to fill the vacancies.”

Solis added: “Moving forward, our elected leaders need to take proactive and preventative steps so that the trust between elected leaders and the community can be restored.”

Last month, Jose Marin, La Joya ISD’s assistant superintendent of student services, pleaded guilty to taking bribes related to an energy savings contract.

The Progress Times has reported extensively on the corruption at La Joya ISD and other western Hidalgo County governmental bodies.

Department of Justice, Southern District of Texas, news release

March 3, 2022

La Joya trustee convicted of extortion

McALLEN, Texas – A 48-year-old Sullivan City man has admitted to threatening to cancel a contract if he did not receive increased monetary payments, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Oscar Salinas aka “Coach” pleaded guilty today.

As part of the plea, Salinas admitted he had an agreement with Jacinto Garza, CEO of L&G Engineering. Salinas was to receive payments through his company from L&G.

Further, La Joya Independent School District (LJISD) had an insurance contract with Ruth Villareal Insurance. Salinas learned Garza was politically supporting Everardo Villarreal, a candidate for Hidalgo County commissioner and Ruth Villareal’s husband.

Salinas threatened to terminate the contract with Ruth Villarreal Insurance if the agreement with Garza was not re-negotiated for additional monetary payments. Garza eventually terminated the payment arrangement with Salinas.

Salinas subsequently cast a vote to terminate LJISD’s contract with Ruth Villarreal Insurance.  

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez accepted the plea and set sentencing for June 16. At that time, Salinas faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.

The FBI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of Insurance and McAllen Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto Lopez Jr. is prosecuting the case.


Department of Justice, Southern District of Texas, news release

January 6, 2022

La Joya ISD trustee convicted in bribery conspiracy

McALLEN, Texas – A 42-year-old Penitas resident and La Joya Independent School District (ISD) trustee has admitted to receiving more than $234,000 in bribes, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Armin Garza admitted he participated in a conspiracy to steer lucrative energy savings contracts at various political subdivisions in Hidalgo County, including La Joya ISD.

In exchange, Garza and other co-conspirators received bribes and kickbacks from subcontractors selected to work on the energy savings contracts. As part of his plea, Garza admitted to using his influence over LJISD employees who were elected officials at other political subdivisions in Hidalgo County. The employees subsequently received promotions or pay raises. They also voted to award or attempted to award the same company energy savings contracts at three other political subdivisions in Hidalgo County. 

Garza admitted to receiving at least $234,500 in bribes and agreed to forfeit such amounts as part of his plea.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa set sentencing for March 18. Garza was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.

The FBI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General, Texas Department of Insurance and McAllen Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto Lopez Jr. is prosecuting the case.


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