Concerned about unethical conduct by the board, La Joya Housing Authority attorney resigns
This article originally appeared in the Friday June 7, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
An attorney who represented the La Joya Housing Authority in lawsuits against Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas and his daughter, former housing authority Interim Executive Director Frances A. Salinas, abruptly resigned on Sunday after expressing concerns the board had major ethical problems.
Tim Daniels, a partner at San Antonio-based law firm Daniels & Daniels, submitted a brief resignation letter to Executive Director Cristi LaJeunesse on Sunday, hours before the housing authority board planned to discuss the law firm’s contract.
“We have enjoyed working with the Housing Authority Executive Director and Staff,” Tim Daniels wrote. “We enjoyed advising the Housing Authority Commissioners who we were in contact with.”
Tim Daniels submitted the resignation letter after concluding the housing authority board planned to terminate Daniels & Daniels. He also expressed concerns the board hadn’t acted ethically.
“Based on the applicable law and the current pattern of behavior of Commissioners Bazan and Pena, in my opinion, an ethical Texas attorney could be challenged by his or her obligations and effectively represent the La Joya Housing Authority as to the Frances Salinas case or the lawsuit in which the La Joya Housing Authority was compelled to sue three or four Commissioners and the Mayor for numerous violations of the Texas Housing Authorities Law and/or the Texas Open Meetings Act and/or the La Joya Housing Authority’s By-Laws.”
Daniels & Daniels had represented the housing authority for nearly eight years.
Former Executive Director Juan Jose “J.J.” Garza hired Daniels & Daniels in June 2011, when the mayor attempted to remove members of the housing authority board.
Daniels & Daniels also handled two high-profile lawsuits for the housing authority last year, when the board faced similar problems.
Tim Daniels represented the housing authority in October, when Frances Salinas filed a lawsuit against her former employer.
Frances Salinas claimed the housing authority board violated the Texas Open Meetings Act and breached her contract. Hidalgo County Court-at-Law Judge Albert Garcia dismissed the lawsuit and ordered Frances Salinas to pay $20,000 in attorney’s fees.
Tim Daniels represented the housing authority again in December, when the housing authority filed a lawsuit against Mayor Salinas and four people he appointed to the board. Attorneys for the housing authority, the mayor and people he appointed to the board filed a joint motion to dismiss the lawsuit on May 31.
As a result of the lawsuits, Daniels & Daniels billed the housing authority about $77,700 from November to May.
“I thought their services were expensive,” said housing authority board President John Pena.
Pena also questioned why an attorney hired by the housing authority filed a lawsuit against members of the board, including him, without authorization from board members.
Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Garces Valdez said the housing authority filed the lawsuit because, as a result of board appointments made by Mayor Salinas, the housing authority lacked a legal board to make decisions.
“Because of the situation we were in, I went with the best recommendation from our executive director and our lawyer at the time,” Garces Valdez said. “Do I believe Daniels and Daniels is a good firm? I believe they’re a really good firm. I will always be in great gratitude to the fact that they helped the housing authority gain those $20,000 back.”
Another San Antonio-based law firm, Sanchez & Wilson, may advise the housing authority at future meetings.
It’s no stranger to La Joya.
Sanchez & Wilson handled day-to-day legal work for the housing authority when Frances Salinas served as interim executive director and represented her father, Mayor Salinas, in the latest lawsuit.