Board expresses frustration with remote exec

La Joya Housing Authority logo

LA JOYA — While still reeling from issues with their previous executive director, the La Joya Housing Authority Board of Commissioners also expressed frustration with the current director who was appointed in November.

During a board meeting Wednesday, the four commissioners in attendance voted to order Executive Director Cristi LaJeunesse to appear at their next meeting to answer questions about her performance.

The action was approved by Board Chairman John Peña, Vice Chair Sylvia Garces-Valdez, and Commissioners Jorge Bazan and Jose Armando Salinas.

The vote came after Bazan recited a list of grievances he had with LaJeunesse that largely stemmed from her absence from the housing authority.

LaJeunesse, who was officially appointed as the executive director in November, is also the executive director for the Kenedy Housing Authority which, in turn, manages five other authorities: the Smiley, Three Rivers, Nixon, Falls City and Hallettsville housing authorities.

When the La Joya Housing Authority hired her, she said she would work remotely from San Antonio but try to be in La Joya at least five days out of the month.

However, that arrangement didn’t seem satisfying to Bazan, who said there were issues with posting meeting agendas, her absence from meetings, and conflicts with her duties with other housing authorities.

“ If we’re going to have somebody here, they need to be responsible and actually here,” Bazan said. “Because these are monies that … they don’t belong to us, they belong to the tenants.”

LaJeunesse did not return calls seeking comment as of press time.

Garces-Valdez said she agreed that she would prefer for LaJeunesse to be available during the meetings to answer questions.

Commissioner Salinas appeared to agree.

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

LaJeunesse was appointed after the board terminated their previous executive director, Frances Salinas, in early November. That decision was based, in part, on concerns over the management of funds after the board was made aware that Salinas had made questionable expenses.

Salinas filed a lawsuit against the housing authority, which was dismissed Nov. 13 by Judge Albert Garcia of County Court-at-Law No. 6, determining Salinas didn’t have a valid contract with the housing authority and ordered her to pay $20,000 in attorney’s fees.

However, in March, Salinas filed a motion requesting that the judge reconsider the order.

The status of the case, though, seemed to be unclear to the board which authorized their attorney, Mark Sanchez, to review the status of the case during Wednesday’s meeting.

Sanchez, who has served as legal counsel for the housing authority on an at-will basis since November 2016, did not handle that case for the housing authority. Instead, they were represented by Timothy Daniels of Daniels & Daniels, a San Antonio-based law firm.

Daniels, however, issued his resignation, which was accepted by the board during the June 6 meeting.

Though his contract with the housing authority never expired, Sanchez advised that the board move forward in issuing a request for qualifications for legal counsel.

“ Put it out, let anyone that applies be (under) consideration,” Sanchez said. “It’s good for transparency purposes.”

bereniceg@themonitor.com