The La Joya Housing Authority board fired Executive Director J.J. Garza on Friday, roughly three months after a grand jury indicted him on wire fraud charges.

Commissioners unanimously voted to fire Juan Jose “J.J.” Garza, 48, of La Joya — a power player in western Hidalgo County politics who serves on the La Joya school board — after a closed-door termination hearing.

The board suspended Garza without pay last month and subsequently moved to terminate him, citing the indictment and a litany of problems identified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As CBS 4 News previously reported:

The indictment against Garza details a bid-rigging scheme involving the Donna Housing Authority and the Alamo Housing Authority.
Investigators with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General and the FBI accused Garza of submitting both legitimate and fraudulent construction bids, which manipulated the process. The federal government paid nearly $44,800 for the construction work.
If convicted, Garza faces a maximum 20 years in federal prison. He pleaded not guilty.
The indictment against Garza may jeopardize federal funding for the Housing Authority, said San Antonio-based attorney Mark Anthony Sanchez, who represents the board.
“If that were to happen, that would be a sad day for needy families in La Joya who depend on the Housing Authority for assistance,” Sanchez said.
The Housing Authority board, though, inked a three-year employment contract with Garza in November 2015.
While the board may fire Garza for negligence, habitual drunkenness or accepting bribes, the contract includes a special section detailing how the Housing Authority would handle any indictment against him.
The contract allows the board to suspend Garza with or without pay while the indictment remains pending.
“In the event ‘Garza’ is suspended without pay or benefits and is acquitted of the charge or the charge is dismissed, ‘Garza’ may appeal to the Board of Commissioners for back pay and benefits,” according to the contract. “The Board of Commissioners may award all or part of the back pay and benefits or reject the appeal.”
Garza earns $63,000 annually. He’s currently banned from Housing Authority property and forbidden to contact the board.
When the board meets, members probably will discuss the formal “Notice of Suspension and Discharge for Cause” sent to Garza on Nov. 30. The two-page letter lays the groundwork to terminate him.
“Your client’s fraudulent, willful, deliberate, and grossly negligent conduct has seriously prejudiced the La Joya Housing Authority and resulted in widespread and pervasive negative publicity that has damaged its reputation, standing and goodwill in the community,” according to the letter. “Each of the bases identified herein constitute joint and several justifications for discharge.”

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