PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

October 31, 2012

PA Housing Authority commissioner resigns, cites audit findings

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Citing the Office of Inspector General audit and concerns about her ineffectiveness on the board, Port Arthur Housing Authority Commissioner Farhana Swati resigned Monday.

Swati emailed her letter of resignation to the mayor, the executive director of the housing authority and the chairman of the board of commissioners Monday. In it, Swati states that she believes the housing authority spent funds inappropriately and that her belief was confirmed by the June 1 Inspector General audit, which documented the questionable spending of more than $5 million in federal funds that were not in compliance with HUD rules.

A message left for Swati was not returned by time of publication.

At several meetings, Swati encouraged the board to procure an outside audit team to perform a forensic audit of the housing authority, but other board members repeatedly voted down her proposal to find a forensic audit team and retain legal counsel with experience in working with governmental entities, the letter states.

“If, as the OIG report indicates, there has been improper spending, there needs to be serious change in how the authority conducts its business and someone needs to be held accountable for the current situation,” Swati wrote in the letter. “The citizens of Port Arthur deserve it, and HUD will demand it, even if the board won’t.”

The letter, addressed to Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince, who appointed Swati to the board, further says that Swati “finds [herself] alone on the board with a vote that does not count.”

“I do recognize the seriousness of the situation and cannot ignore it,” the letter states, “but neither am I able to effect change with a single vote.”

The mayor said she was appreciative of Swati’s service to the housing authority.

“I’m sorry she chose this path,” said Ronnie Linden, chairman of the PAHA board of commissioners.

Linden said that Swati’s statement that the board voted down motions to procure a forensic audit was a “total misrepresentation of the truth.” Other board members did want a forensic audit, he said.

Linden asked Swati to write down what she wanted the forensic audit to cover, and she never did, he said.

Seledonio “Cele” Quesada, executive director of PAHA, said the board tabled the motion to procure a forensic audit but were working toward one in the near future. It was a matter of determining the scope of the audit and when it could be done and finding the appropriate person to conduct the audit, he said.

Quesada said he was sorry that Swati resigned. She was a very knowledgeable business person, he said.

bcrum@panews.com