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Uvalde School Officials Approve Terms of Superintendent’s Retirement Without Publicly Disclosing Them

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By Uriel J. García, The Texas Tribune

Uvalde school officials approve terms of superintendent’s retirement without publicly disclosing them” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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UVALDE — The Uvalde school board approved the terms of Superintendent Hal Harrell’s retirement Wednesday, but did not disclose any details of his exit as leader of a school district still reeling from the worst school shooting in Texas history.

When voting on the retirement terms, trustees referred to discussions that happened behind closed doors during an executive session that lasted hours. Trustees then quickly announced that Gary Patterson would be the interim superintendent. But trustees did not say when Harrell’s departure would take effect or when Patterson would begin as his interim replacement.

The votes capped a meeting that got heated when residents and families of Robb Elementary shooting victims were not allowed to make public comments about school safety and other matters. On May 24, an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at the elementary school.

For months, some family members of shooting victims called for Harrell’s resignation, arguing that he, and many other school officials, should be held responsible for failing to prepare for a school shooting. A Texas House committee investigation into the shooting provided a damning portrayal of a school district that had strayed from strict adherence to its safety plan and a police response that disregarded its own active shooter training.

The board on Wednesday also approved plans for the search for a long-term superintendent, but again only referred to terms disclosed behind closed doors without publicly disclosing them. Officials said details about the search process will be posted on the district’s website in about a week.

At the start of the meeting, some parents and relatives of the victims and survivors of the May 24 shooting wanted to make comments about safety plans, and what role school board member J.J. Suarez would play in the search for a new superintendent. Suarez is a former Uvalde police officer who worked at Southwest Texas Junior College as division chair of allied health and human services when he responded to the shooting at Robb Elementary.

Residents were interrupted by the board’s lawyer and board members saying some of the parents had not previously signed up to make public comments or their comments were not relevant to the agenda items.

Attendees shouted at the lawyer to let people speak. The board abruptly ended the public comment period and went behind closed doors to discuss the details about Harrell’s retirement. After three hours, the board came out to announce Patterson as the interim superintendent. Reporters were cordoned off from audience members and trustees throughout the meeting.

Harrell announced his decision to retire just under two weeks ago. His pending departure is the latest in a series of school officials who have left, often unwillingly, since the shooting.

After the gunman entered the school May 24, hundreds of law enforcement officers from several local, state and federal agencies descended on the campus. Despite the urgent pleas from officers and parents amassed outside, officers inside the school stayed put outside the classrooms where the gunman massacred his 21 victims. Officers waited more than an hour before confronting the gunman, contradicting law enforcement doctrine dictating that officers immediately confront active shooters.

Just prior to Harrell announcing his retirement earlier this month, school officials suspended the entire district police department after protesters held a dayslong protest outside the Uvalde CISD administrative building during which demonstrators called for the removal of all district officers until investigations into the police department’s response to the shooting are complete.

That suspension of the small police force came on the heels of school officials firing a recently hired district police officer after it became public that she was one of the first state troopers to arrive at Robb Elementary on May 24.

In August, the school district fired the head of the police department, Pete Arredondo, who was widely criticized for his response to the shooting. Last month, the Texas Department of Public Safety said it was investigating five of its 91 officers who responded to the shooting.

William Melhado contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/10/19/uvalde-superintendent-retirement-hal-harrell/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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Watch: Nancy Pelosi Says ‘I Have Absolutely No Intention of Seeing the Deadly Assault on My Husband’s Life’

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U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) the former Speaker of the House, told reporters she has no intention of watching just-released video of the almost fatal, brutal attack on her 82-year old husband, allegedly by a hammer-wielding, far-right conspiracy theory promoting extremist.

DePape had “posted antisemitic screeds and entries defending former President Donald Trump and Ye, the rapper formally known as Kayne West who recently made antisemitic comments,” CBS News reported one day after the attack.

Earlier Friday, before the video had been released by a judge’s order, Rep. Pelosi said did not know if she would watch the video.

Later, Friday afternoon, Pelosi said she would not.

READ MORE: Pelosi Attack Video Release Leads to Criticism of Musk, Right Wingers Who ‘Trafficked in Homophobic Conspiracy Nonsense’

“As you know, today there was a release of some information. I have not heard the 911 call. I have not heard the confession. I have not seen the break-in, and I have absolutely no intention of seeing the deadly assault on my husband’s life.”

Prosecutors have described the attack as “near-fatal.”

She also thanked “people for all of their prayers,” and for “asking about the progress my husband is making, and he is making progress, but it will take more time.”

Apparently choking up, she added that she would not be making any more statements about this case as it proceeds, except again to thank people and inform them of Paul’s progress.”

Watch below or at this link.

 

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Another Santos Financial Concern: GOP Lawmaker Claims Campaign Paid WinRed Triple the Fees It Should Have

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According to an NBC News report there’s yet another mystery swirling around U.S. Rep. George Santos and his campaign financial activity and reports.

WinRed, the right-wing fundraising processor platform created to compete with Democrats’ ActBlue, has asked the Santos campaign to correct a financial report that claims the New York GOP lawmaker paid them more than triple what it should have – suggesting the entry on his Federal Election Commission (FEC) report is erroneous.

“Santos reported paying WinRed more than $206,000 to process donations to his 2022 campaign, records show. But that amount doesn’t match up with how much money Santos actually raised,” NBC News reports.

“WinRed charges candidates a 3.94% fee for contributions made online by credit card. At that rate, Santos would have had to have raised more than $5.2 million through WinRed to warrant a $206,000 payment to the firm,” NBC explains. “Through November, however, his campaign reported total contributions of $1.7 million, including donations that didn’t come through WinRed.”

READ MORE: ‘Deliberately Deceived the Nation’: Legal Experts Stunned by ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Report on How Barr and Durham Protected Trump

WinRed would not tell NBC News how much the Santos campaign actually paid them, with the news network offering that it could be “sloppy accounting.”

But one campaign finance expert, attorney Brett Kappel, warns, “nothing that appears on Rep. Santos’s FEC reports can be taken at face value.”

This follows reports that the Santos campaign amended two filings to indicate that a $500,000 personal loan and a $125,000 personal loan, claimed to have been from the candidate’s own personal funds, was not from his personal funds. There is no information indicating what entity loaned the Santos campaign the money, or if it actually even existed.

That bombshell was followed up this week with yet another one: the FEC reports were allegedly signed by a “treasurer” who does not and never has worked for the Santos campaign. One expert called that a “big no-no,” and “completely illegal.”

READ MORE: Watch: Santos Responds to Report He Joked About Hitler, ‘The Jews’ and Black People

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Questions Raised About Another Freshman Republican’s Finances After He Refuses to Comply With Federal Law

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Rep. George Santos (R-NY) isn’t the only freshman Republican facing questions about his personal finances.

An investigation conducted by News Channel 5 in Nashville has found that freshman Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN) never complied with federal laws requiring that he make disclosures about his personal finances.

In fact, notes News Channel 5, “not only did Andy Ogles ignore that law during the campaign, he continues to ignore it today.”

The law in question requires that Ogles and all candidates for elected office to disclose their assets and unearned income, their liabilities, and sources of income paid by one source that exceed $5,000.

READ MORE: Marjorie Taylor Greene’s amendment to bar Biden from selling oil goes down in massive bipartisan defeat

Ogles’ office hasn’t responded to News Channel 5’s questions even though the Tennessee lawmaker’s refusal to comply with the law could result in up to a year in prison.

Ogles’ defeated Democratic opponent, Heidi Campbell, told News Channel that it was “frustrating” to see Ogles flout the law, which she complied with last year by releasing her personal finance information all the way back in April of 2022.

“We, as Tennesseans, deserve to have representatives who are following the rules,” she said.

Ogles was also regularly late in filing campaign finance reports, which also contained so many discrepancies that Ogles has received four different letters from the Federal Election Commission demanding that they be explained.

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