A former employee of the Port Arthur Housing Authority has filed a lawsuit claiming he was fired after reporting alleged misappropriations by the director and board members.
Joseph Ray Guillory alleges he was working for the Housing Authority when he became aware that the executive director, Seledonio Quesada, and other members of the authority were misappropriating thousands of dollars that belonged to the agency.
In turn, Guillory reported his findings to the Office of the Inspector General, according to the complaint filed Oct. 3 in Jefferson County District Court.
“The Authority charged in excess of $199,000 to its American Express charge card account, $23,205 to its gasoline charge card account, and $5,352 to its Lowe’s charge account during the audit period,” the suit states.
“Plaintiff informed OIG that the majority of charge card transactions did not fulfill a housing authority mission or business purpose. The Authority incurred $8,410 in ineligible and $47,916 in unsupported charges that it allocated to its HUD programs and at least $9,595 in travel costs incurred by the commissioners that it charged to its non-HUD programs. Its (credit card) statements reflected at least $66,000 in travel charges for its commissioners, management, employees and contractors.”
An audit also revealed that the Housing Authority had paid Quesada $51,821 in sick pay leave and had provided 14 laptops for six commissioners, the complaint alleges.
Guillory claims that during the next audit, Quesada warned him not to cooperate with the office of the Inspector General. In fact, Quesada attempted to prevent the office from obtaining certain documents and to block it from interviewing certain Housing Authority staff, according to the complaint.
Despite Quesada’s warnings, Guillory informed special agents that the Housing Authority consistently violated financial responsibilities, including proceeding with a project without the proper environmental clearance.
For the project, the Housing Authority had received $657,906 from the Recovery Act Grant, the suit states. It needed to spend the money by a certain deadline and proceeded with a project without first obtaining environmental clearances, the complaint says.
“Indeed after the defendant began construction illegally on the site, underground gas tanks were discovered on the property,” the suit states. “It was later confirmed that much of the soil was contaminated.”
After providing information that triggered an audit, Guillory claims he was terminated on April 17.
Guillory attempted to regain employment through a series of grievance hearings, but had to wait months before discovering his employment status. After persistent requests, Guillory was finally granted the opportunity to hear the results of his appeal at a Sept. 24 meeting, according to the complaint. Still, he was not able to receive a satisfactory answer.
“Instead of presenting a report and/or explanation, Board members Abroise and Bragg announced that no further action would be taken (at this time),” the suit states.
In his complaint, Guillory seeks a temporary restraining order that would prohibit the Housing Authority from destroying any documents related to his employment or any communications related to his involvement with the office of the Inspector General.
He also wants the court to prohibit the Housing Authority from destroying anything related with his grievance hearing. He also seeks a written determination as to whether his termination is final. He seeks costs and other relief the court deems just.
He will be represented by Cade Bernsen, David E. Bernsen and Christine L. Stetson of The Bernsen Law Firm in Beaumont.
The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court.
Case No. E193-256