Hearing set in McAllen ISD election contest

McALLEN — A hearing is set Wednesday for the election contest between Gina Karam Millin and Tony Forina with regard to McAllen ISD’s May election, the latest action in a relatively quiet dispute.

Filed through her attorney, Ronald Hole, in June, Karam Millin alleges in the petition that McAllen ISD “systematically promoted” Forina, who defeated her for the Place 4 seat in the election by 12 votes — 2,759 votes to 2,747. She also charges that a curriculum audit that would have been “very damaging,” according to the petition, was not released until after the election.

It’s further alleged in the petition that Hidalgo County, which the school district contracts to run their elections, and Forina engaged in improper actions that led to an unfair result.

The hearing is set for 2 p.m.

Karam Millin seeks a declaration of her as the winner of the election, or declaring the election void and ordering a new election.

Although attorneys for neither Karam Millin nor Forina did not return calls seeking comment Monday, Karam Millin said in a news release in June that she felt motivated to keep the district transparent and ensure taxpayer money is used properly.

Among the allegations Karam Millin levies is that an audit conducted by the Texas Association of School Administrators was presented to the school district in January 2019 but not publicly disclosed until several months later, specifically after the May election.

Karam Millin believes the audit would have reflected badly on the incumbent board members running for re-election, which includes Forina.

She also argues that publications listed only three polling locations for early voting and there were about six locations for Election Day.

“As a result, it is believed, and Contestant alleges, that persons who voted in the unlisted polling locations outside of the boundaries of McAllen ISD were not legally authorized to vote in that election, or were not qualified to vote in that election. The result was an unfair election, undermining and affecting the outcome of the election,” the amended petition stated.

Another allegation in the petition is that 27 individuals voted in unlisted polling locations outside of McAllen ISD unbeknownst to Karam Millin. She claims in the petition that since the county and school district did not publish all of the polling locations, it prevented her from campaigning at these places.

Forina has denied that any wrongdoing. Also, because the majority of the claims are not recognized by the Texas Election Code, Forina argued in a brief that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear these claims under the code. This includes the accusations of improper notice of polling locations and McAllen ISD resources being used to influence the election.

“The Texas Elections Code was never intended to allow such claims in an election contest. Allowing such claims to overturn an election would broaden the purpose of an elections contest far beyond intended,” according to Forina’s brief.

A plea to the jurisdiction hearing is scheduled the morning prior to the 2 p.m. hearing. A merit trial is scheduled for Dec. 4, according to the Hidalgo County docket.