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La Joya Housing Authority fires executive director

The La Joya Housing Authority board fired Executive Director Frances A. Salinas on Wednesday.

Warnings from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development prompted the board to act Wednesday night. After meeting in executive session, members voted 3-0 to fire Frances Salinas effective immediately.

FrancesSalinas“We’re looking out for the best of the authority and the tenants,” said board Chairwoman Maricruz Sifuentes.

Frances Salinas, 51, of La Joya, who serves on the La Joya school board, is the daughter of Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas and City Commissioner Mary Salinas. The family dominates La Joya politics.

Neither Frances Salinas nor Mayor Salinas could be reached for comment Wednesday night.

She contacted the board at 4:48 p.m. Wednesday, attempting to cancel the meeting because an attorney couldn’t attend. The board met anyway.

Concerns about how she managed the housing authority slowly mounted during the past two years.

Frances Salinas resigned from the board in 2016, when federal agents arrested then-Executive Director J.J. Garza, and became the acting executive director.

When she applied for the permanent position, though, HUD refused to pay Frances Salinas with federal money.

Her father, Mayor Salinas, appoints the housing authority board. Allowing people hand-picked by Mayor Salinas to supervise his daughter constituted a clear conflict of interest.

The housing authority board, however, allowed Frances Salinas to remain the acting executive director.

Management problems followed.

HUD dispatched a team to La Joya during April. The three-member team found a litany of problems, including a budget deficit and poorly maintained apartments.

“Overall, we have serious concerns on how the Authority is being managed by the staff and overseen by the Board of Commissioners,” according to a June 29 letter from HUD San Antonio Public Housing Director David Pohler to Frances Salinas. “The Authority will need to develop a recovery plan to improve their physical condition and financial viability or consider transferring the program to a neighboring Agency with the administrative capacity and assets to operate a viable program.”

The board, which hadn’t been concerned about the apparent conflict of interest, began to worry that HUD would shut down the housing authority.

“I really didn’t see an issue if she was performing her duties correctly,” said board Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Garces Valdez. “But that’s why we took action, because we finally got some paperwork that showed us differently.”

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