DALLAS - A third El Paso Independent School District trustee implicated in a wide-ranging federal corruption investigation has abruptly resigned.
Charles Roark, who has served on the EPISD board for 12 years, submitted a one-page letter of resignation last week, saying he could not remain in office because he was moving to another district. Board members are required to live in the district they represent.
"Unfortunately, my wife and I have sold our home, and I will not be residing in District 5 as of Aug. 15, 2008," Roark's letter read.
"After prayer and careful consideration," Roark wrote, "it is best for me to resign my position as trustee effective immediately."
Next week, the remaining board members will consider appointing or electing a new trustee for Roark's term, which expires in May.
The board has replaced two other trustees linked to the investigation, Sal Mena and Carlos "Coach" Cordova, who resigned in August 2007, citing ill health.
Cordova, who admitted swapping his vote for money, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and wire fraud Nov. 28, 2007. Mena and Roark have not been charged or indicted in the public corruption investigation, but were named as targets of the investigation in documents filed by the U.S. attorney's office in U.S. District Court.
On Aug. 8, Roark's attorney Mary Stillinger won a U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that she was allowed to represent Roark as well as two other men identified as targets of the investigation. The court overturned U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo's ruling that Stillinger had to disqualify herself from representing all three men. Montalvo's ruling came on a motion by the U.S. Attorney's Office seeking her disqualification.
The appeals court agreed with Stillinger that the men had a right to hire her because they had not been charged with any wrongdoing.
"Appellants have not been charged with a crime, nor have grand jury proceedings been initiated against them, nor have they been called to appear as grand-jury witnesses," the court ruled. "Stillinger's alleged potential conflict of interest existed only in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation monitored and supervised by the FBI, which is independent and separate from any proceeding occurring before the district court."
Stillinger also represents Ysleta Independent School District trustee Milton "Mickey" Duntley and Ernie Lopez, the former chief operating officer of the National Center for Employment of the Disabled, where the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe appears to have originated.
Roark, who holds master's and doctorate degrees in public health and education, is the former executive director of Hospice El Paso, which was also raided by FBI agents in April 2006.
Roark was also a member of the Paso Del Norte Group, a high-level club of El Paso government and business executives who meet in secret to plan El Paso's future development. Several other members of Paso Del Norte have been implicated in the investigation, including two executives in the bond industry who have resigned their positions.