When the La Joya Housing Authority board met last week, members couldn’t agree on anything.
Asked to approve the meeting minutes from November, the board split 2-2. Asked to approve the budget, the board split 2-2. And asked to meet with an attorney, two members of the board walked out.
“It did seem like it was a plan,” said board Chairwoman Sylvia Garces Valdez, who added that members of the board who voted against everything had clearly talked beforehand. “If you came in with an open mind, you would be able to see what’s beneficial for the housing authority.”
March 28 marked the first board meeting since November, when the housing authority filed a lawsuit against La Joya Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas.
The feud between Mayor Salinas and the housing authority board started during October, when the board fired his daughter, Executive Director Frances A. Salinas.
Frances Salinas filed a lawsuit, which flopped when she didn’t appear for any court hearings. Hidalgo County Court-at-Law Judge Albert Garcia dismissed the case and awarded the housing authority $20,000 to cover legal bills.
Mayor Salinas, meanwhile, attempted to stack the housing authority board with supporters.
The mayor appointed former La Joya school board President Arnold Ochoa and businessman Jorge Bazan, the brother-in-law of City Attorney Kennedy Salinas, to the board.
They joined businessman John Pena and Jose Luis “Puma” Rodriguez, who Mayor Salinas had appointed to represent tenants. Rodriguez, though, had never attended a meeting.
The housing authority filed a lawsuit against Mayor Salinas and all four appointees.
“The Mayor continues to intentionally violate the Texas Local Government Code for his own political gain and in an effort to disparage and undermine the LJHA’s Board members from taking actions against the Mayor’s daughter, Frances Salinas,” according to the lawsuit. “A federal investigation by HUD into Frances Salinas’ management of the LJHA is pending.”
Garcia, the same judge who presided over the Frances Salinas lawsuit, signed a temporary restraining order.
With a majority of the board members embroiled in litigation, the housing authority couldn’t hold a meeting.
It took four months for attorneys to negotiate a temporary truce, which allowed the board to meet on March 28.
The board — Sylvia Garces Valdez, German Reyna, Jorge Bazan, John Pena and Jose Armando Salinas, a new tenant commissioner appointed by the mayor — couldn’t agree on anything.
Pena didn’t attend the meeting, which left the board with a 2-2 split.
Garces Valdez and Reyna voted to approve the minutes.
Bazan and Jose Armando Salinas voted against the motion, which failed without a majority.
Garces Valdez and Reyna voted to approve the budget. Bazan and Jose Armando Salinas voted against.
When they suggested meeting with an attorney, Bazan and Jose Armando Salinas walked out, which ended the meeting.
In an interview, Jose Armando Salinas said he didn’t feel comfortable approving anything without additional information.
“I was really disappointed,” Garces Valdez said, adding that they couldn’t approve items that benefit tenants. “How does the future of the authority look like with that kind of obstruction?”