This article originally appeared in the Friday July 12, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
The La Joya Housing Authority board hired an interim executive director Monday, about two weeks after her predecessor resigned.
All five members of the housing authority board interviewed candidates for the position on July 10, but they couldn’t reach a consensus. The board met again Monday — with just three members present — and selected Claudia M. Alcazar of Rio Grande City for the job.
“I select her because I have a feeling that she’s very professional and she has a lot of experience,” Jose Armando Salinas said on July 10. “She has a lot to offer to our community. She’s been around this community for a very long time. She comes from a very professional family. She has worked in many government agencies.”
Board Chairwoman John Pena and board Commissioner German Reyna, however, supported former Sullivan City Manager Juan Cedillo for the position. Board Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Garces Valdez and board Commissioner Jorge Bazan supported Elizabeth Hernandez, a former supervisor for the Edinburg Housing Authority.
The board met again at 2 p.m. Monday, when Garces Valdez had planned a trip to Nashville and Reyna had to attend a conference in Corpus Christi.
Attorney Mark Anthony Sanchez of San Antonio, who represents the board, arrived 30 minutes late. After meeting with him in executive session, the board voted 3-0 to select Alcazar.
Pena declined to comment on the decision. Alcazar couldn’t be reached for comment after the meeting.
Reyna, who didn’t attend the meeting, said Alcazar had experience with grant writing and worked for the city of Rio Grande City.
“She was a good candidate,” Reyna said.
The board plans to advertise the position and select a permanent executive director as soon as possible.
“Supposedly, she was not going to be interested in the permanent position,” Reyna said.
Alcazar replaced former Executive Director Cristi LaJeunesse, who resigned on July 3.
LaJeunesse submitted a scathing resignation letter, which accused the board of refusing to comply with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations, violating the Texas Open Meetings Act and attempting to release a $20,000 judgment against the mayor’s daughter, former Interim Executive Director Frances A. Salinas.
HUD designated the housing authority “troubled” in April and demanded a recovery plan, concerned La Joya had an unacceptable Public Housing Assessment System score.
“The failing score is due to the Authority spending more than it earns, poor rent collection, and below average occupancy of units,” according to a letter from Office of Public Housing Director David Pohler to Pena. “The La Joya Housing Authority has a history of corrupt management and poor oversight by the Board of Commissioners.”
HUD demanded the housing authority submit a recovery plan within 30 days.
“The LJHA Board should take immediate action to identify the cause if (sic) its financial and management performance deficiencies and develop and implement a plan to recover its PHAS score and ensure long-term sustainability at an acceptable level of performance,” according to the letter. “Alternatively, we recommend the Board consider transferring the Authority’s programs to a neighboring Housing Authority that can provide proper oversight and administration.”