PORT ARTHUR —
Port Arthur’s Housing Authority has agreed to settle a a lawsuit filed under the Texas Whistleblowers Act rather than spend time and money in what could be a lengthy legal battle.
In a statement issued by Housing Authority Executive Director Cele Quesada Friday, the decision was made at the recommendation of the Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool.
“The board of the Port Arthur Housing Authority has agreed to settle the claims of Mr. Joseph Guillory to avoid the cost, distraction and uncertainty of further litigation,” the press release stated.
In October 2012, the Bernsen Law Firm in Beaumont filed a lawsuit against the Housing Authority. The suit alleged Guillory was fired in retaliation for reporting to the Department of Housing and Urban Development alleged illegal activities committed by the executive director and housing authority staff.
According to The News archives, Guillory was director of property services at the Housing Authority for 10 years prior to being terminated. Guillory had reported “various illegal activities” allegedly committed within the Housing Authority to the HUD Office of Inspector General. The OIG has conducted two audits of the Housing Authority, one in January 2011, and the other in June.
Quesada, in the press release, noted that at no time has the Port Arthur Housing Authority been found to have misappropriated any funds, committed any illegal acts, or engaged in fraud of any kind.
Quesada would only answer The News’ questions in an e-mail format, and did not send his response before press time.
Port Arthur Housing Authority Commissioner Robert Reid said the decision to settle was the best course of action for the Housing Authority.
“I would prefer settlement because I am concerned about what the legal fee would be if we don’t settle,” Reid said.
Reid said he was not aware of the terms of the settlement, though he felt sure a monetary award was awarded.
Any monetary settlement would be paid jointly by the TML and Housing Authority, not from taxpayer money, but from rents collected for operating costs, Reid said.
“As a new board member we have to move forward. We have to move to move beyond the OIG audit, which we have,” Reid said. “We have to reach closure with the Guillory matter, which we have, and our focus needs to be on the redevelopment of Carver Terrace, which is the right thing to do.”
The Housing Authority has purchased land between Jimmy Johnson Blvd. and Texas 365 on the Port Acres side of the Medical Center of Southeast Texas.
Though, architectural plans are in place and the Housing Authority has received clearance from HUD to move forward on the relocation project, no date has been set to break ground on construction, Reid said.