Victoria Housing Authority fires executive director

Date Published: 
March 9, 2017
News Type: 
News
Program Area(s): 
Public and Indian Housing

Source: Source: Victoria Advocate)

By Jessica Priest
March 7, 2017 at 10:36 p.m.

The Victoria Housing Authority is in the midst of its fourth management shake- up in about two years.

Its board of directors fired Louis Boldt during a Feb. 28 meeting.

Boldt replaced longtime executive director Debbie Gillespie, who resigned in October 2015 after the Office of Inspector General found the housing authority had mismanaged more than $780,000 from Jan. 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014.

Boldt, who previously served as director of the Section 8 housing program, started serving as the executive director of the housing authority in November 2015 and was given the position in December 2015.

That came after Joy Alane Bankston, then deputy executive director, was offered the executive director position, declined it and resigned.
Gillespie and Bankston both now face criminal charges in connection with their roles at the housing authority, as do Dolores Garza, the former chief financial officer, and a handful of other employees. Their cases are pending.

Boldt could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and Jeff Cano, chairman of the board, and the housing authority's attorneys, Chris Janak and Bernard Klimist, are remaining silent about why he was fired.

They say they can't explain Boldt's firing because the matter was discussed in closed session Feb. 28 and doing so would be illegal.
"The board was not satisfied. What more can I tell you without getting into a closed session?" Cano said.
"It's a personnel matter that we can't comment on at this time until it develops further," Klimist said, adding that Boldt could appeal his termination. "I'm not trying to be evasive."

But Joe Larsen, a Houston-based attorney who serves on the Board of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, suspected they are trying to be evasive.
Larsen said the board is free to discuss this personnel matter even if it was discussed in a closed session at the Feb. 28 meeting.

That's because Boldt had the option to request the matter be discussed in open session. And even if he didn't use that option, board members still have a constitutional right to free speech, Larsen said.

"The only thing they can't talk about (that happens) in closed session is if they get advice from their attorney and that's because no one board member has the power to waive the attorney client privilege on behalf of the entire board," he said.

Later, Larsen added, "In any circumstance, the people deserve to know why this person was fired from this public position, a high profile public position in which there is a legitimate public interest. In an institution with a documented history of corruption, it's all the more important this information come out."
Mayor Paul Polasek, who appoints members to the board, said, "I know there were some incapability with his management style and the board, but beyond that, I don't have a lot of other details."

When asked whether Boldt would be criminally investigated as his predecessors were, Cano said, "I don't anticipate that, but I don't know whether there will be further investigations."

District Attorney Stephen Tyler could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The deputy executive director, Brandy Hilbrich, is running the day to day operations of the housing authority for now.
Janak thought Hilbrich had been working for the housing authority for about six months. Both he and Cano were traveling and couldn't immediately recall Hilbrich's past experience, and she didn't return calls for comment Tuesday.

"She's a very competent lady. She will likely have the opportunity to apply for the position, but we're going through the standard procurement procedure for a new director," Cano said.

They say things at the housing authority are on the up and up.

"We're getting our housing renovated somewhat and getting people moved in so in that respect, it's improving," Cano said.

In 2015, the housing authority collected almost $1.8 million in rent for the properties it owns and 339 families received housing choice vouchers.
Its board meets every third Monday of the month. On Feb. 28, they met at the Sendera. They post their agendas at the housing authority's office, 4001 Halsey St., and at city hall, 501 W. Juan Linn St.