The Housing Authority: Insubordination – You Wouldn’t Let Your Employee Get Away With It, Or, Would You?III of V

As significant as the “clustering” issue is in regards to the Housing Authority’s Suncrest Project, more serious and troubling aspects of this project continue to emerge. As a quasi-government agency, the Housing Authority operates as both a corporation and a government agency. Because of the use of taxpayer monies, the Housing Authority is more of a governmental entity then a private one. It is generally agreed that the final authority over El Paso’s Housing Authority is the Mayor of El Paso. Although there seems to have been attempts by El Paso Housing Authority to somewhat modify this as the Board held several emergency meetings shortly before Mayor Wardy took office modifying their Bylaws, significantly changing some operational aspects of the entity. According to Chapter 392 of State of Texas Code, the Housing Authority is a public corporation, which is governed by a Board comprising of five, seven, nine or 11 individuals appointed by the Mayor. Currently the Board is comprised by five members appointed by former Mayor Caballero. According to the State Code, the board members, or Commissioners are appointed by the “the presiding officer of [the] Municipality”, making Joe Wardy the ultimate authority of the Housing Authority and by de-facto the City Council of El Paso.

Insubordination – not submissive to authority or disobedience to lawful authority is conduct that is detrimental to any organization, especially a governmental one. When an employee or subordinate rebels against their authority, then chaos reigns in the group. In fact, insubordination is such a serious matter that in almost all cases the penalty for insubordination is so serious that it results in the greatest punishment possible. All organizations, regardless of whether private or public are dependent on the orderly transaction of activities in order to accomplish their goals or objectives. All organizations will ultimately fail without a clear chain of command dictating the organization’s focus. In the military, the act of insubordination is so serious that it may result in execution. For companies and government agencies, the act of insubordination can and usually results in immediate termination. For employers, insubordination is one of the three most serious offenses an employee can commit, right up there with theft and violence.

Disingenuous – not being straightforward or candid or insincere is generally a polite way of stating someone lied. Although the use of the word tends to temper its true meaning, disingenuous is still calling someone a liar, however pretty the word is made up. Publicly calling your employer disingenuous is not a good career step and is most likely considered insubordination of your boss’ authority over you.

Most readers are probably asking themselves what does all this have to do with the El Paso Housing Authority. As previously established the Housing Authority of El Paso is subordinate to the Mayor of El Paso. According to the Housing Authority’s website, the current Executive Director is Rudolph C. Montiel who answers directly to the Housing Board who serves at the pleasure of the Mayor of El Paso. On June 25, 2003, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Board met in Austin, Texas. According to testimony given by Mr. Arthur Fiero, a resident of District 8, he was there on behalf of Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Cobos, who could not attend due to a previous commitment, to read the City Council’s resolution opposing the Suncrest Project. El Paso’s City Council had adopted the unprecedented resolution on June 17, 2003. The Council’s resolution unequivocally states the City’s position that it is against the Suncrest Project. With a four to four vote, Mayor Wardy was forced to break the tie with his first tiebreaker vote of his administration. This in effect put both the Council and the Mayor, Montiel’s defacto bosses on the public record of opposing the Suncrest Project.

According to the City’s Resolution, the opposition to the Authority’s project is the concern that approving this project would create a “clustering” problem for the community. As the reader may recall from the previous article, the issue of “clustering” is being addressed by the state legislature in an upcoming law and that by most indications; indicates that clustering is detrimental to the residents and the community. There is no doubt that the Council’s clear intent in their resolution was that this project needed to be stopped until the issue of “clustering” is resolved. There is also no doubt that the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso; along with Rudy C. Montiel are de facto employees of the Mayor and consequently the City of El Paso through the City Council.

During the testimony given before the June 25 Board Meeting at the Texas Housing and Community Affairs, Rudy Montiel provided testimony in his official capacity that in effect contradicted the wishes of his employer, in complete disregard to the City’s authority over him. During testimony, Montiel introduced himself “as the president and CO of the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso”. On direct questioning by Sharik Bogany, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Board Member, who was asking Montiel to elaborate on the City’s resolution, Montiel stated that to “characterize this as a concentration of public housing units is completely disingenuous”. Although most residents of the effected area would argue the location of the proposed units is in fact a “concentration” of public housing, the real issue with Montiel is actually his mischaracterization of his employer intentions.

Montiel’s public statements were an attempt to misrepresent the wishes of his employer, the City of El Paso, or in other words, insubordination. Although some will argue that Montiel actually works for the Housing Authority and not the Mayor, his actions were still insubordinate to his ultimate boss, Mayor Joe Wardy. According to Section 6.13-3 of the El Paso Municipal Code, a city employee may be terminated for “just cause”. Under most guidelines, insubordination is “just case” for removal. In addition, according to Section 6.3-2 of the same code, a department head may also be removed for the same offense or “for the good of service”. There is no doubt that Montiel’s own actions were disingenuous not only to the Texas Board but also to the City Council as he misrepresented the wishes of the City of El Paso. What is even more troubling is the Housing Authority’s own actions on these matters. Regardless of what position anyone takes on the Suncrest Project, the fact remains that Montiel misrepresented the wishes of the City of El Paso to another governmental agency.

With this apparent insubordination, it is a wonder that Rudy Montiel is still drawing a paycheck from the taxpayer’s coffers. What is even more incredulous is the Housing Authority’s complete disregard for City Council’s wishes. With a clear mandate from City Council and the issue of possible “clustering” of projects, it becomes even more imperative to determine what is guiding the Authority’s actions, as it appears that the City of El Paso is not. What could possibly be worth so much that risking an $180,000 a year job is secondary to the City’s wishes. Clustering and misrepresenting the Council’s intent are sufficient issues to question the motivations behind this project. Could it possibly be money?

There is no doubt that there are serious issues that need to be resolved but what is more imperative is to guard the taxpayer’s monies. With millions of dollars at play, the Housing Authority’s actions betray a sense that there is more to this than the Suncrest Project. Clustering and insubordination may not be the only issues driving this apparent rogue agency as other issues are beginning to emerge. The number one question that needs to be asked is who is safeguarding the public’s money. With the immense budget and the board’s inaction in regards to Rudy Montiel, it becomes even more imperative that the public demand answers to the Suncrest Townhomes project that the Housing Authority is so intent on ramming down El Paso’s collective throat.

Author’s note: This is a five part series that started on Friday, with yesterday’s piece, today’s piece, Tuesday’s and the conclusion on Wednesday. Tomorrow’s portion is titled: Bidding Rights: It’s only the Taxpayer’s Monies