ROUND ROCK — As a scandal grows in a “safe and suburban” Central Texas school district, a recent court hearing revealed more details on a key episode in the troubling saga.
Last week, Round Rock Independent School District board members and lawyers testified in court about their attempted censure of their fellow trustees, and the new evidence confirmed what citizens long suspected: Five trustees—who are currently entangled in their own cover-up accusations—used the pretext of meeting disruptions in order to move forward with their plan to silence their two dissenting colleagues.
The story traces back to a pivotal event last summer, when the seven-member board, despite objections from the community, controversially hired Dr. Hafedh Azaiez as the district’s new superintendent.
Only two trustees—Danielle Weston and Mary Bone—voted against hiring Azaiez, echoing community concerns that the board did the “entire superintendent search in closed session,” didn’t provide reasons for choosing Azaiez as the sole finalist, and rushed the decision.
Less than two months later, Azaiez was subject to a temporary restraining order and began facing serious accusations of domestic violence—and the five board members began facing allegations of covering it up.
In late summer, as community members began asking questions, the dramatic saga caught fire and made national headlines. The incidents included Azaiez and the majority of the board ordering district police officers to block citizens from a public meeting and arresting two concerned fathers, and the board trying to silence Weston and Bone (who questioned and challenged the majority’s actions at the meetings).
During that time, both the Texas Education Agency and Travis County Sheriff’s Office opened ongoing investigations into Azaiez and the district.
The board planned to censure Weston and Bone in mid-September, claiming the trustees broke Texas Penal Code for “disrupt[ing] a public meeting,” “undermined the orderly governance of the District,” and that Weston made “repeated demands” for information from the district.
The resolutions would have skipped the normal reprimand due process and immediately hit the two trustees with unprecedented punishments. They would have been prohibited from all school district property, district funds for their jobs would have been blocked, they would have been barred from having officer positions and having their names appear on district high school diplomas, and they would be officially referred to as “censured trustees” on all district communications and websites.
However, an hour and a half before that scheduled September meeting, a district court judge intervened and stopped the board’s plan, issuing a temporary restraining order against the board majority.
At the court hearing last week, testimony and documents revealed the board’s stated reasons for the censures were pretextual; there was no substance to the allegations of meeting disruptions or penal code violations, and the complaints about “demands” for information were connected with two politely worded emails requesting a small number of documents.
An email admitted into court evidence showed the majority of the board had already been scheming the attack for other reasons.
“Good Afternoon [Board President Amy Weir & Vice-President Amber Feller], Is it possible to get the first step for censuring trustees on the agenda for 09/14? Thank you,” wrote Trustee Tiffanie Harrison in an email on September 9—a week before the “incidents” on September 13, 14, and 16.
“I would second that idea,” replied trustee Feller.
Trustee Weir confirmed in her court testimony that three other board members requested the censure resolutions, with trustee Cory Vessa asking for it for months.
Moreover, the board majority made no attempt to follow their school board operating procedures, which require multiple warnings and only allow a censure after a third violation.
“So when you posted the censure resolutions against trustees Weston and Bone, what board operating procedures and/or board policy had they violated?” lawyer Tony McDonald asked board president Weir.
“I-I didn’t—it was not my agenda item. I was not claiming anything. I posted that at the request from other trustees,” she replied.
“There’s a list of the penal code violations that are identified in this in both censure resolutions for trustees Weston and Bone, is that right?” attorney McDonald asked school district lawyer Doug Poneck, who helped write the resolutions.
“Yes,” Poneck replied.
“Those don’t detail any specifics of what it is that they did to violate those specific codes, right?” McDonald asked.
“They don’t describe the specific statutory language, that’s correct,” Poneck replied.
RRISD’s other attorney, Mark Dietz, did not attempt to defend the board’s censure resolutions on their merits, but rather, he argued the case was not “ripe” because the board hasn’t actually gone through with their plan yet. If they did enact and enforce the censure resolutions, then the case would be “ripe” and could be refiled. McDonald argued that the court did not need to wait for harm to occur before intervening.
Last week’s hearing also occurred as new court documents were released on Azaiez’s assault allegations and the board’s subsequent cover-up. The alleged victim claimed in the affidavit that board president Amy Weir was aware of the accusations as early as July 2021 and “had offered to protect [Azaiez], she was informing him of everything and guaranteed him he would not lose his job.”
Azaiez is currently on paid administrative leave pending investigations, and the board has delayed a decision on his employment several times. Their next scheduled meeting is March 8.
Meanwhile, on the censure matter, the court is anticipated to renew arguments on Wednesday.