The Harlandale ISD board of trustees meets in August 2019. Credit: Stephanie Marquez / San Antonio Report

Harlandale Independent School District has paid its former engineering firm, Jasmine Engineering, $700,000 to settle a 2018 legal dispute, the district said Friday.

The school board voted Nov. 19 in closed session to approve the settlement agreement, which will dismiss the lawsuit Jasmine Engineering filed against Harlandale ISD in February 2018. The firm alleged the school district wrongfully terminated Jasmine’s contract, the firm’s attorney, Ricardo Cedillo, said.

Harlandale’s relationship with Jasmine Engineering came under scrutiny when the Texas Education Agency began investigating the school district in 2017 after receiving complaints of alleged nepotism, problems with the district’s procurement practices, financial mismanagement, and dysfunctional governance. In a report, TEA investigators rebuked the district’s board for repeatedly amending its contract with Jasmine instead of soliciting new bids for projects, violating state and local procurement laws.

Jasmine Engineering oversaw the school district’s bond projects and other construction from 2007 to 2018.

Colin Strother, spokesperson for Jasmine Engineering, said the firm and owner Jasmine Azima were pleased with the settlement and that the prolonged litigation was over.

“It’s been a tremendous waste of tax dollars by Harlandale’s school board,” he said. “All Jasmine wanted from the very beginning was to have her name cleared, and we accomplished that, in addition to a substantial monetary settlement.”

Harlandale ISD board President Norma Cavazos did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

In addition to the $700,000 payment, the agreement states that Jasmine Engineering completed all of its work with the school district and would be permitted to work with Harlandale ISD in the future. Strother said the firm has no plans to do any work with the district.

After the TEA investigation, state Education Commissioner Mike Morath appointed a conservator to oversee Harlandale’s board instead of installing a board of managers and lowered the district’s accreditation status.

Conservator Judy Castleberry said in a statement that the TEA “will look favorably” upon the district of roughly 13,000 students for resolving the lawsuit with Jasmine Engineering.

“It is positive and significant that the trustees were able to work together to find a resolution,” she said.

Cedillo said the almost three-year legal battle never saw any forward momentum until the TEA intervened in the district. Harlandale still owed Jasmine about $800,000 when the firm sued, he said.

“The settlement is a vindication certainly of Jasmine Engineering’s reputation,” Cedillo said.

Jasmine Engineering is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

Brooke Crum covered education for the San Antonio Report.