Whistleblower wants his day in court – sooner, rather than later

Joe Guillory

Joe Guillory spent more than a decade at the Port Arthur Housing Authority building up what he thought would be a career. However, according to him and the lawsuit he has brought against his former employer, all of Guillory’s hard work and dedication proved in vain once he was terminated from the public entity for cooperating with federal investigators tasked with overseeing taxpayer money expended through the PAHA.

According to Guillory, he was asked to cooperate with the investigators sent from the Office of the Attorney General – HUD Division when the federal employees were auditing PAHA. During the audit, Guillory advised the investigators of a number of situations that ultimately proved unfavorable to PAHA Executive Director Seledonio Quesada and the PAHA Board of Commissioners. The findings of the OIG investigators were penned in multiple reports filed with HUD alleging that the PAHA administrators were, among other things, misappropriating funds meant to house low-income residents. The crux of the reports found that PAHA was in possession of roughly $6 million that could not be accounted for properly.

As the feds were completing their tasks and submitting reports asking for a return of the funds, Guillory was relieved of his long-time position at PAHA. Guillory attempted to follow the housing authority’s grievance process but was precluded from making his case to the entirety of the PAHA Board of Commissioners.

Guillory’s attorney, Cade Bernsen, said his client still hasn’t been afforded written clarification of the rationale behind the termination.

“To this day, (PAHA) will not give (Guillory) any documentation to show what it is they’re saying – which is (Guillory) wasn’t doing his job,” Bernsen said.

Guillory’s job performance had never been a question prior to the employee’s cooperation with the federal audit, Bernsen added.

The person doing the firing, Executive Director Quesada, does have a questionable track record at PAHA, according to Daniel Rodriguez, HUD regional director of Public Housing – Houston Field Office. In a letter sent to the PAHA board commissioners and Quesada, Rodriguez goes into elaborate detail explaining a multi-year disregard for HUD authority and taxpayer money. Rodriguez further explained that PAHA “is in substantial default of … program regulations,” and “is at substantial risk for fraud, errors, financial misstatements and failure to deliver the much needed housing assistance and economic opportunities for the residents of the city of Port Arthur.”

OIG investigator Gerald Kirkland noted that with more than $66,000 spent by PAHA for travel that PAHA board chairman Ronnie Linden says was for training exercises, the board and executive director should be more knowledgeable of HUD programs.

“In response to questions regarding travel, the board chairman admitted that (PAHA) staff had received an inordinate amount of training; however, he also stated that staff should be very knowledgeable in program and record-keeping requirements,” Kirkland stated. “Yet, authority staff failed to exhibit this knowledge during the audit process.”

Every Joe gets his day

While the OIG audits have yet to result in any charges or court dates, ousted whistleblower Joe Guillory wants his day in front of a jury of his peers to come sooner rather than later.

In a motion filed Jan. 2 in Jefferson County’s 58th Judicial District Court, Guillory’s attorney has requested an expedited trial date for July 2013. The motion contends that the request is “in the best interest of the parties and the public at large,” and goes on to say the matter is of the utmost importance due to “great public interest and the misappropriation of taxpayer money.”

“There’s an urgency,” Bernsen told The Examiner, “especially in light of there being evidence of ongoing, potentially criminal activity.”

“We have a good case, and the public deserves to know what’s going on with their money,” Bernsen added.

Bernsen, Guillory and PAHA’s legal team will be in court to argue as to the proposed July court date on Jan. 18 in Judge Bob Wortham’s courtroom. In the interim, Bernsen has filed a motion for discovery requesting 75 items for review including financial documents from PAHA and correspondence pertaining to Quesada’s management of federal funding.