Prompted by a scathing HUD Office of the Inspector General audit – “The Management and Board of Commissioners of the Housing Authority of the City of Port Arthur, Tx., Failed to Exercise Their Fiduciary Duties” – and a subsequent follow-up report from HUD regional director Daniel Rodriguez, the housing authority board has been holding regular meetings to discuss the entity’s lack of compliance with the federal funding agency. One task the board was entertaining was whether to request payback of the more than $50,000 that went to PAHA Executive Director Seledonio “Cele” Quesada for unused sick time in violation of the housing authority’s written policy, as requested by HUD officials. After multiple meetings of the PAHA board of commissioners with Quesada, the housing authority will, however, not be requesting the funds be returned.
While most of the conversation regarding the payback provisions were held in closed session outside of the public view, PAHA board president Ronnie Linden told The Examiner that Quesada will not be asked to return any portion of the $51,821 “for accrued sick leave from August 2010 through December 2011.”
According to the audit, the amount included roughly $34,000 paid to the executive director when “payroll documents did not show the payment as sick leave, and the authority did not reduce the executive director’s accrued leave balances.”
Other allegations in the June audit detailed additional infractions not limited to mismanagement of funds, sketchy contractor acquisition, overpayments to board members, missing equipment, and housing authority credit cards used for personal gain in the thousands of dollars.
Newly added Port Arthur Housing Authority (PAHA) board commissioner Farhana Swati asked her fellow board members to institute changes in the way PAHA does and take corrective measures to satisfy HUD standards and suggested the executive director pay back monies questionably paid to him.
The group was tasked with reviewing Swati’s motions during a meeting held Sept. 6, but no action was taken on any of the proposed changes. In an encore meeting Sept. 17, the board voted to “affirm the cash pay out.”
“We need to clean house in every aspect of operation,” Swati said after all her recommendations stalled with the PAHA board of commissioners Sept. 6. “If we don’t make sure we’re working on a solid foundation of doing the right thing and being accountable to the public, then we can’t be sure of anything we do here.”Swati said she is hopeful the new employees added to assist with cleaning up PAHA will lead to change in the housing authority’s stance with HUD.
“I have confidence in (Connie) Hill to perform a completely thorough audit and report to HUD,” she said. “I have no confidence – none – in Mr. Quesada.”