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La Joya Housing Authority board blasts executive director

The La Joya Housing Authority board lambasted Executive Director Cristi LaJeunesse on Wednesday night, excoriating her for missing board meetings and failing to follow instructions.

Commissioner Jorge Bazan accused LaJeunesse of refusing to post meeting agendas, ignoring requests for information, missing board meetings and spending just a few days a month in La Joya.

LaJoyaHousingAuthorityLogoAfter discussing a laundry list of complaints, the housing authority board unanimously voted to “demand” that LaJeunesse attend the next board meeting.

“We’re going to give her the right opportunity to go ahead and present herself and explain all these things,” Bazan said. “There’s a lot of things I want to know from her. But she’s not here.”

Board Chairman John Pena, Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Garces Valdez and Commissioner Jose Armando Salinas also had concerns about how LaJeunesse managed the housing authority. Commissioner German Reyna didn’t attend the meeting.

Pena said she didn’t properly post meeting agendas. Garces Valdez said she didn’t explain housing authority spending. And Jose Armando Salinas said she wasted money on attorneys.

“My personal opinion is that, hopefully, we’ll get somebody else as soon as possible,” Jose Armando Salinas said.

The housing authority hired LaJeunesse — the executive director of the Kenedy Housing Authority, which manages public housing programs for small towns across South Texas
— in November.

When the board hired LaJeunesse, members knew she wouldn’t always be available.

“The LJHA is aware that Consultant is employed by several other Texas public municipal housing authorities and that her other employers have consented to Consultant working for the LJHA,” according to her employment contract. “Thus, the LJHA acknowledges that Consultant has other employment commitments that may occasionally affect her availability.”

LaJeunesse planned to spend about five days a month in La Joya. That arrangement seemed to work last year.

After the housing authority filed a lawsuit against Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas, though, the relationship between LaJeunesse and the board soured.

LaJeunesse accepted the job after the housing authority board fired Interim Executive Director Frances A. Salinas, the mayor’s daughter.

The board terminated Frances Salinas in part because LaJeunesse provided members with public records that revealed thousands in suspicious ATM withdrawals and unauthorized spending.

When the mayor appointed Bazan and Jose Armando Salinas to the board, they formed a new majority and started questioning how LaJeunesse managed the housing authority.

“It’s their decision not to work with me,” LaJeunesse said. “Not my decision not to work with them.”

LaJeunesse said the board scheduled meetings when she wasn’t available. Members also made last-minute requests for information, which she couldn’t immediately provide.

For example, LaJeunesse said she had a training in Arlington on Wednesday. She informed the housing authority about the training in April, but the board scheduled a meeting for Wednesday anyway.

The housing authority also took action Wednesday on a lawsuit filed by Frances Salinas.

Hidalgo County Court-at-Law Judge Albert Garcia dismissed the lawsuit and directed Frances Salinas to pay the housing authority $20,000 in legal fees. The housing authority board, however, may not attempt to collect the money.

“I move that the board of commissioners direct our legal counsel to investigate the status of Frances Salinas against housing authority (sic) to consider releasing the judgment,” Jose Armando Salinas said.

The motion passed unanimously.

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