, Port Arthur, Texas

September 25, 2012

PAHA sheds no light on termination

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Joseph Guillory worked for the Port Arthur Housing Authority for 10 years.

But the PAHA board of commissioners barely gave Guillory 10 minutes to explain the reasoning behind his termination. In the words of Commissioner Bart Bragg, who was part of the tag-team that investigated Guillory’s termination for three months, no further action was necessary.

Commissioner Fahrana Swati asked Bragg and Clonie Ambroise, the two commissioners assigned to look into Guillory’s April 17 termination, why they did not recommend any further action be taken, but she never got a clear answer. Lips were taught throughout the discussion because “attorneys are now involved,” said Ronnie Linden, chairman of the PAHA board.

“It is probably not wise to discuss what we know publicly,” he said.

Swati pressed further, saying it was the board’s duty to look into the matter of Guillory’s termination. She said she did not understand why Bragg and Ambroise would not discuss their findings since she, as a commissioner, wanted to know why they thought no further action should be taken.

C. Lynn Daughrity, the board’s attorney, repeated Linden’s sentiment that the board should not discuss the matter publicy since an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim had been filed and the board had received letters from Guillory’s attorney.

“If that’s not pending or threatening litigation, I don’t know what is,” he said. “Pending or threatening litigation is something that can be discussed in closed chambers.”

But Bernsen has not threatened or implemented any litigation at this point, he said. He and Guillory just wanted something in writing that would explain the status, protocol and timeline of the investigation into Guillory’s termination, and they requested that information Sept. 20. They asked that it be presented and that they have the opportunity to address the board at Monday’s meeting. Their request was denied.

“It stinks of a cover-up,” Bernsen said.

Guillory said he was fired for reporting “various illegal activities occurring within” the authority and cooperating with the Housing and Urban Development Department’s Regional Inspector General June 1 audit of the authority. He said he gave the Inspector General more information than what was included in the audit.

“When you see the help that we did provide the community — when you see the living conditions of people who have nowhere else to turn — and then you see them living high on the money that was intended for these people, it’s just wrong,” Guillory said.

Executive Director Seledonio “Cele” Quesada gave Guillory vague reasons for firing him — not turning in reports on time but not producing said reports, Guillory said. Bernsen and Guillory are not done fighting though, Bernsen said. He said they would weigh their options before moving forward.

“What is it they got to hide?” Guillory asked, referring to the board.

Guillory said he wanted his job back. He said he believes in standing up for what’s right, for justice, and that the mayor is responsible for justice, too, because she selects the members of the board.

“She needs to pick a new board,” he said.