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“I was given no guidance,” legal counsel says
Nearly a month after approving a coronavirus housing assistance program for Pearsall residents, councilors finalized an agreement Tuesday, January 12, to hire a program coordinator.
The controversial program has councilors demanding answers to questions over the source of funding, the lack of advertisement for the program director’s hiring, and criteria needed to qualify for the financial assistance.
It was during a December 28 meeting that councilors cast a split vote to fund and hire Reynaldo Trevino as program director; however, Trevino did not sign an official agreement letter until Friday, January 8.
According to Bobby Maldonado, legal counsel for the city, the hiring of the program coordinator was not subject to the mandated ‘request for qualifications’ order by City Hall.
“On December 28 it was put on the agenda; the majority of the council approved it and selected a coordinator,” Maldonado said. “After that, I was given no guidance. Mr. Trevino signed the agreement and you all had already set the budget, hourly rate.”
The attorney noted that Trevino appeared to have reduced the original 11-page program application to two pages. Further investigation shows the nine-page reduction omitted documents pertaining to identification, the amount of people living in the home, a needs questionnaire that dealt with food, transportation, dependents and healthcare.
Significantly, all questions regarding a positive coronavirus diagnosis in the home had been omitted.
Councilor Davina Rodriguez asked that a positive COVID-19 diagnosis requirement be added to the application. Rodriguez also suggested checks be made out to the property owners of homes where residents become eligible for assistance and that each awarded amount not exceed $1,000.
Rodriguez quizzed the project director over the approval of applications, as councilors are currently still in the process of establishing eligibility criteria.
“The answer is no,” Trevino said. “I have completed a list of all the people who have applied and I gave that list to the city manager with my recommendations. I intend to have discussions with the city manager on a case-by-case basis. It is premature to say selected or deselected.”
City Manager Federico Reyes told councilors that he had not agreed or disagreed with Trevino on any of his recommendations for two reasons. He noted he had not seen the applications and that he did not know what criteria councilors sought.
“If the agreement was signed by Mr. Trevino on the eighth and we are just now going over it and there are already applications out there, that means there was already criteria,” Councilor James Leal said.
As of January 12, the city had not received any reimbursements from the CARES Act monies, Finance Director Santos Alarcon told councilors he had submitted the entire $568,000 for reimbursement.
The finance director urged councilors during their December meeting to spend conservatively. He said the city had ended the fiscal year with a 30-percent sales tax revenue drop and that he foresees budget shortfalls.
“We did submit for reimbursement of the police salaries and that funding would be nice in saving,” the finance director said.
The $13,000 program is paid for by the city’s general fund with anticipated reimbursement from the federal grant.
Rodriguez was supported by Councilors Leal and Sonia Hernandez in backing Councilor Roland Segovia’s motion to approve the agreement with Trevino, and added criteria to the application. Councilors Julian Hernandez and Brenda Trevino voted against the motion.