Henry D. Leon Guerrero administrator of the Section 8 housing program at the Guam Housing & Urban Renewal Authority will retain his job.
On May 14 the seven-member board of the Civil Service Commission chaired by Luis R. Baza found for Leon Guerrero reinstating him in the position with back pay. Leon Guerrero was fired after millions were over paid to GHURA landlords. He was reinstated after it was found management knew of the situation.
Leon Guerrero was dismissed by GHURA on Dec. 1 2004 after a Nov. 19 notice of proposed adverse action was given to Leon Guerrero by the agency. Leon Guerrero gave “written and oral presentations” to Ronald S. De Guzman executive director of GHURA on Nov. 26 2004.
Charges against him were “incompetence inefficiency and inexcusable neglect of duty.”
John K. Calvo personnel management administrator at the CSC said the Nov. 19 notice was a notification. “It’s proposed; it’s not a notice that he’s been terminated by management. … There was a document explaining why based on the notice of adverse action.
“The employee did appeal as required by the rules and within 20 days as required upon receipt of the final notice of adverse action. We received the appeal on Dec. 2 ” Calvo said. A status quo hearing on the case was held on March 1 he said. “The parties met and decided to go forward for the motion hearing which was set for May 12.”
The CSC found for Leon Guerrero under the 60-day law the deadline period for adverse action when management knows or should have known about an occurrence.
Leon Guerrero had been administrator of the housing program since January 1997. He was in the job when U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials discovered Section 8 landlords on Guam had been overpaid by millions of dollars (See “GHURA’s great goof ” in the Dec. 13 issue of the Journal.).
HUD officials from Honolulu began an initial Rental Integrity Monitoring Review from July 23 to 31 2003 and discovered the overpayment. After agreement with HUD GHURA then reviewed overpaid allowances to 2 469 landlords from October 2003 onward. The overpayments — which were caused by adding utility payments to rental allowances rather than including them in the allowances — are estimated at a total of about $1.5 million from October 2003.
Leon Guerrero has been on medical leave since May 17 2004 receiving intermittent treatment in Hawaii and was off-island at the time of the Journal’s story in December 2004.
In his Dec. 1 2004 adverse action letter to Leon Guerrero De Guzman wrote “The 2004 follow up review report which consisted of 43 files found that GHURA continued the practice of mistakenly establishing two payment standards (one with utilities and one without utilities) that the landlord may choose. It was during this review that the HUD immediately informed the authority to stop issuing the payment standards that provide a separate amount for utility allowance.
“Consequently the follow up review report found that in all 43 files audited the landlord selected the payment standard that included a separate amount for the utilities. As a result of your inexcusable neglect and incompetence to make the corrected changes the authority exceeded the payment standard issued effective Oct. 1 2003 causing an overpayment to the landlord and an underpayment of family rent in 39 of the 43 files audited. This resulted in an estimated overpayment of $49 000 by the authority and a reduction in our overall Section 8 Management Assessment Program score.”
Of the 43 tenant files reviewed 25 files contained additional errors.
All three line supervisors under Leon Guerrero stated they had known of the payment error and reported it to Leon Guerrero thus qualifying him for reinstatement under the 60-day rule. The supervisors were Rosie E. Francisco contract control analyst; Rosalie S. Diaz-Dicke contract control analyst; and Joanne Balajadia senior contract control analyst and presently acting housing services manager.
Leon Guerrero attended the May 12 meeting of the commission together with his legal counsel F. Randall Cunliffe attorney and partner in Cunliffe & Cook but was again off-island for medical treatment as the Journal went to press. De Guzman accompanied by Eliseo Florig attorney at Lujan Unpingco Aguigui and Perez legal counsel for GHURA also attended the May 12 meeting on the 2nd floor of the former Hakubotan building in Tamuning.
Calvo said GHURA would have 30 days to appeal the CSC’s decision. “The 30 days will commence upon receipt of the decision of the commission.” The board of directors had not yet signed off on the decision he said. “It will be forthcoming. We are setting up a date for the signing off.” Calvo expected the decision would be signed at the end of May or beginning of June he said.
Benny A. Pinaula deputy director and acting director at GHURA told the Journal that he was aware the CSC had found for Leon Guerrero but GHURA had not received official notice. “The final ruling hasn’t been released yet from the commission. We are waiting for that report to come to us so that we can review it.” Pinaula said he understood that GHURA could appeal the decision but could give no information on whether it would appeal it or not. “I can’t comment on that.”
De Guzman was in Honolulu meeting with HUD officials as the Journal went to press and was expected to return to Guam with a decision on whether GHURA will have to reimburse HUD for the funds. He is due back in the office on May 31.
Pinaula said GHURA was currently reviewing all landlords’ files.
“The executive director is in discussion with HUD in Honolulu. On this trip he visited with them and this is one of the topics that they did talk about. He’ll carry with him the definitive decision from HUD. The definitive decision is forthcoming.”
Should HUD require reimbursement it would come from the Section 8 Administration Fee Reserve Account — which holds the fee for each Section 8 participant — containing about $3 million.
That money was earmarked for GHURA’s new building.
GHURA intended to proceed with the building Pinaula said. “We had to re-scope it because of the construction costs going way up.”
The agency was due to proceed with a ribbon cutting for 10 new low-income houses in Astumbo at the end of June.
The single-family dwellings have three bedrooms and two bathrooms and are built on lots of 9 500 square feet to 10 000 square feet. Orion Construction has built the houses at a cost of $79 500 for each house and lot. Pinaula said “It’s a modern home. It comes with typhoon shutters and comes with a carport too. It’s a great house for low- to moderate-income clients.” GHURA provided screening to determine if clients met criteria before banking institutions were contacted by the clients he said. “We help with qualifying and closing costs if necessary.” 10 more Orion homes are due to be completed in the first week of July with a final 10 scheduled for completion in the first week of September.
Other GHURA projects include expansion and renovation of the Northern Health Center due to go out for bid May 30 with construction due to start in the latter part of July; the groundbreaking on or after July 26 of the Dededo Fire Station and Northern Police Precinct; the Santa Rita Senior Citizens Center due for completion mid to late June; the Merizo Senior Citizens Center due for completion after June 24; and the Agana Heights Senior Citizens Center due for completion the first week of July. MBJ