This article has been updated.

The South San Antonio Independent School District board of trustees voted 3-2 Wednesday to relieve suspended Superintendent Marc Puig of his duties and propose termination of his contract for good cause, more than five months after placing him on paid leave pending an inquiry.

The board also voted to suspend Puig without pay for good cause. Trustees Gilbert Rodriguez and Connie Prado cast the dissenting votes, and trustees Shirley Ibarra and Gina Villagomez were absent.

Hired in June 2020, Puig served as the district’s eighth superintendent since 2010. Interim superintendent Henry Yzaguirre is the ninth.

At the beginning of the meeting, Prado announced she would resign from the board, effective June 30. She has served on the board since 1998.

On Dec. 6, the board placed Puig on paid leave, pending the outcome of an investigation into a private conversation that was picked up by a live microphone. That conversation occurred at the Nov. 17 meeting between Puig and board President Ernesto Arrellano Jr., who were discussing hiring a consultant.

At that same December meeting, the board named Yzaguirre as interim superintendent. Yzaguirre previously served as Southside ISD’s executive director of operations and construction.

Since then, South San has been paying both superintendents’ salaries, which amounts to almost $200,000 in the past five months. That is equivalent to one superintendent’s annual salary.

Arrellano would not comment on the board’s action Wednesday night.

Neal Adams, Puig’s attorney, said the board has no cause to terminate the superintendent’s contract because Puig has not violated any laws or district policies.

“These people are playing with the school district’s money. It’s not their money,” Adams said. “South San Antonio has a reputation for ‘let’s just take other people’s money and buy superintendents out.’ And that district will never have stability as long as you have that kind of turnover.

“All he wants to do is do his job and take care of the kids in South San Antonio,” he said.

Puig’s suspension came a week after trustees and the superintendent were notified in a letter that the Texas Education Agency had opened another investigation into South San ISD. The agency concluded a two-year investigation three months before that notification that resulted in the placement of a state-appointed monitor to oversee the school board.

The TEA is investigating complaints the agency has received. The complaints claim the school board has interfered with the superintendent’s duties, including “getting involved with the suspension of a term employee and attempting to make employment recommendations for the chief financial officer,” the letter states.

That was the topic of the conversation captured by the microphone on Nov. 17. Puig had asked the board to approve hiring a consultant to oversee construction projects within the district, but the board tabled the item at that meeting. After adjourning to closed session, Puig and Arrellano stood on the dais and talked about the consultant position, with Arrellano assuring the superintendent that the board would approve the hire at a later date. Puig compared the consultant he wanted to hire to Arrellano’s brother, who is in construction, and said both had the appropriate skills for the job.

Arrellano said, “I’m going to step down so that you can hire my brother.”

Puig responded, “Well, give me hiring authority, and you can. …” The rest of his sentence is not audible on the meeting video.

State-appointed monitor Abe Saavedra, who also served as the district’s superintendent from 2014 to 2018, said the board directed its attorney, Mark Sánchez, to conduct an investigation into the conversation between Puig and Arrellano. It’s unclear what became of the investigation.

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Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum covered education for the San Antonio Report.