Disclaimer: Neither The Daily Signal nor The Heritage Foundation endorses or opposes any candidates in the Round Rock, Texas, Independent School District elections. This story reports on claims from the superintendent’s former mistress, and quotes her election-related statements. It does not endorse or oppose those claims.
The woman at the center of a scandal involving Hafedh Azaiez, the superintendent of the Round Rock, Texas, Independent School District, has finally spoken publicly, claiming that school board members targeted her in an effort to silence her claims against Azaiez.
Vanessa Ruiz, the former mistress who has claimed in court documents that Azaiez pressured her to get an abortion and assaulted her, spoke with Orlando Salinas, a school board candidate who is running against school board President Amber Feller in the Place 3 election. The scandal has deepened since a Round Rock father, Jeremy Story, was arrested last September for allegedly disrupting a school board meeting in which he mentioned Ruiz’s claims. (Both the school board president at the time, Amy Weir, and a spokesperson for the district have denied any attempt to silence Story. Azaiez’s lawyer has claimed to have “objective evidence that the assault… did not occur.”)
Salinas began the video, filmed by the Round Rock One Family PAC, by presenting a restraining order against Azaiez and mentioning a law enforcement case. He claimed, “My opponent, Amber Feller, the current board president, along with Amy Weir and Tiffanie Harrison, have all asserted publicly that the law enforcement case has been dismissed or was closed. Is this true?” (Feller, speaking with The Daily Signal, denied claiming that the law enforcement case was dismissed. Weir and Harrison did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
“No, the detectives in the Travis County Sheriff’s Office have been clear in stating that this case was inactive,” Ruiz responded, as the screen showed statements from the sheriff’s office to that effect. The sheriff’s office confirmed to The Daily Signal that the case is suspended.
Ruiz said the case had been “suspended at my request” and that it “can be reopened any time by me.”
Ruiz mentioned an independent investigation commissioned by the Round Rock school board involving Ann Dixon. The former mistress claimed that Amber Feller “was interjecting herself into this investigation.” She explained that she, with her legal counsel, decided to cooperate with Dixon’s investigation in part because “I thought that this investigation was not regarding me.”
“Amber Feller made me the target by sending the investigator to follow me and stalk me to obtain photos of my work, even though I was not, again, the subject of the investigation that the Round Rock community taxpayer money paid for,” she said. “We felt uncomfortable and in danger, right? Someone was following us.”
“I was also subject to humiliation, embarrassment, and defamation,” she added.
Ruiz made a specific allegation: “Even my doctoral program director was called and had to provide current status of my enrollment all because Mrs. Feller stated to the investigator that I was a liar and that I was lying about even being enrolled in a doctoral program at UT,” the University of Texas.
She claimed the investigation’s focus on her “was all ordered by Mrs. Feller.”
Salinas emphasized that “taxpayer dollars [were] being used to investigate you.” He also pointed to an “official Round Rock ISD email from Amy Weir that states you [Ruiz] are not pregnant.”
Ruiz called this “the most hurtful, and slanderous to me” noting that “many people witnessed my pregnancy” and that her doctor “confirmed my pregnancy.” (Weir did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.)
She concluded the video by calling Round Rock community members to vote against Feller and other trustees.
“I ask this community to ask these trustees to provide them all the information,” she said. “I ask that you vote them out, as it is my belief as an educator that they are not displaying the behaviors and conduct that school board trustees should have and display.”
“They have continuously slandered me and targeted me when I was pregnant and vulnerable. They continue to do so,” Ruiz charged. “They have released false press statements and utilized district resources in an attempt to discredit me and slandered my name using their power as school board trustees. I find this appalling.”
Dixon, author of the independent report into Azaiez, told The Daily Signal she stood by her findings and her conclusion, which noted “the divisiveness created in the community by Dr. Azaiez’s behavior and the lack of Dr. Azaiez to be forthcoming” in stating that, in her opinion, he “could not come back into his position and be effective.”
“I think that the conclusion of my report has come to fruition,” she said, citing the divided community.
Dixon’s report mentioned several findings, including a pending grievance against Azaiez; a physician’s confirmation that Ruiz had been pregnant on Dec. 2, 2021; payments Azaiez made to Ruiz; a confidentiality agreement; and a search firm confirmation that it would not have recommended Azaiez had it known about the relationship with Ruiz.
Dixon confirmed to The Daily Signal that Feller claimed Ruiz was not in a Ph.D. program. Feller also presented photos of the Ph.D. class to Dixon as supposed evidence that Ruiz was not in the program. Yet Dixon called the program and confirmed that Ruiz was indeed enrolled.
Dixon said that Round Rock school board members kept pointing to Ruiz as unreliable or problematic, but she attempted to stay focused on the subject of her investigation, Azaiez, whose behavior was the scope of her investigation. “It was always, ‘Don’t look at Azaiez, look at her.’” Dixon mentioned many “rabbit trails around Miss Ruiz that I could not substantiate.”
Feller told The Daily Signal that she would not address Ruiz’s claims about Dixon’s investigation, claiming that Salinas had announced that Ruiz would be suing her for defamation.
“I have never mentioned the alleged victim by name publicly,” Feller said.
However, the school board president did bring up a letter that the Round Rock One Family PAC and Salinas posted on social media at about noon on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022. While the letter bears Feller’s signature, she said, “I never authored” it. “The document is 100% a forgery, and it involves quite a few penal code violations, including a possible felony,” she claimed.
The letter, dated March 27, 2022, and signed in the name of Amber Feller, addresses the Wayside School District school board and attacks Ruiz, who was employed as the principal at Sci-Tech Middle School in the Wayside district. “If you are not aware she is not being truthful with her recent assault accusation against Dr. Hafedh Azaiez superintendent of the Round Rock Independent School District and her pregnancy,” the letter states. “There is facts and proof that show she has never been pregnant.” The letter claims Ruiz “tried to destroy [Azaiez’s] family and his career by contacting the school board to tell her fabricated story.”
“I urge you to hold her accountable and remove her from her position as a school leader,” the letter adds.
On Sunday, Feller’s legal counsel sent the Round Rock One Family PAC and Salinas a cease-and-desist letter, demanding that they stop citing the “forged letter” and warning that she might sue for defamation.
Feller told The Daily Signal, “I have filed police reports with the Round Rock Police Department, the Round Rock ISD Police Department, and ethics violations with the Secretary of State.”
“They stole my signature off of my July campaign finance report,” Feller told The Daily Signal. She presented various exhibits to back up her case, including different versions of her signature. “It’s my opinion that this video is in retaliation for them being implicated in multiple criminal violations in creating this document.”
“I will be pursuing this to the fullest extent possible in a criminal pursuit and I will be following up with a civil as well,” Feller added.
She defended Azaiez, saying that “he’s been investigated by Travis County Sheriff’s Office, the TEA [Texas Education Agency], and an independent investigator. Not a single person has found evidence of any wrongdoing.” (Dixon disagreed with this interpretation of her report.) She claimed that Azaiez “is making systemic and widespread changes for our district.” She also claimed that 94% of Round Rock ISD schools scored at or above their rating compared to their 2019 STAAR, or State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, scores.
As for Salinas’ claim that Feller lied about the law enforcement case, Feller told The Daily Signal, “I said that the case has been suspended, I never said that this case has been closed.”
Dixon, the independent report’s author, said that Ruiz never told her about the March 27 letter to the Wayside School District board, even though Ruiz has kept in touch with Dixon occasionally since the investigation was concluded, including as recently as late last month. Ruiz had opened up a great deal to Dixon, saying that she “felt like she was being victimized continuously.”
Jennifer White, a spokeswoman for the Round Rock One Family PAC, told The Daily Signal that neither she, nor the PAC, nor anyone she knows forged the letter.
“Amber Feller has a track record of bullying, intimating individuals and not being truthful,” White said. “She lied about not giving an obscene gesture to an SAT proctor in 2020 (formal grievance filed), she recently tried to silence a parent at a board meeting to stop her from speaking to the media (KXAN) and she even tried to harass my friends to discredit me.” White claimed that Feller had reached out to White’s friends to spread lies about her.
Speaking to The Daily Signal, Feller admitted to giving an obscene gesture, but said she made the gesture “to an empty room,” noting that the SAT proctor only later filed the grievance after seeing the footage capturing the gesture. The school board rejected the grievance 6-0 in 2020 and then-President Weir said, “We as a whole would like to express that we do not condone Ms. Feller’s actions.”
Feller also rebutted claims that she was trying to “silence a parent” by blocking the woman from speaking to a KXAN local news camera. “I can be heard asking if I can speak with the mom,” Feller said.
Feller also claimed that White was lying about Feller ostensibly harassing her friends. “We have a mutual friend and I reached out via text to see if she wanted to talk,” Feller said. She also pointed to a screenshot of the incident in question, which White shared on Facebook. In the message, Feller wrote that White “said a lot of things that were incorrect,” and noted that “I don’t know Jennifer and I don’t mean any disrespect to her, we just have several mutual friends.”
Tony McDonald, a lawyer representing Round Rock One Family PAC, accused Feller of using the legal system to bully her critics.
“This is yet another example of Amber Feller misusing the legal system to bully those who are critical of her record on the RRISD school board,” McDonald told The Daily Signal. “We will not tolerate a frivolous lawsuit. Citizens in Round Rock ISD have a right to criticize their elected officials without being threatened with legal action for doing so. Feller’s record of attacking a victim of domestic violence while defending RRISD’s disgraced superintendent is a matter for public debate that she cannot and will not silence.”
Neither the spokeswoman for the school district, nor Weir, nor Nix, Azaiez’s lawyer, responded to The Daily Signal’s requests for comment by publication time.
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