By Kati Walker
The Levelland Housing Authority Board met in an emergency meeting Thursday night following the federal indictment of its former executive director, Cecilia Chavez.
The board voted to appoint Rick Osburn as its interim executive director. Osburn insisted the appointment is ‘strictly temporary.’
The board also voted to place Chavez on unpaid administrative leave for 90 days and to review the situation again at that time. Chavez was indicted on two counts by a federal grand jury, Wednesday, in the Northern District of Texas. The first is for theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and the second regarding theft of government funds more than $1,000.
The Housing Authority Board members are appointed by the Levelland City Council but does not operate using any city funds, say Osburn, city manager.
Erik Rejino, assistant city manager, said the funds used by the Housing Authority are acquired through federal grants by the entity itself. He said no local taxes or funds go towards the Housing Authority.
A staff member of the Housing Authority said an investigation had been ongoing for the past four years. However, city staff said it was not aware of the investigation until the indictment was handed down by the federal grand jury.
Osburn said there was no indication of misappropriation of funds other than what was in the indictment.
The indictment accuses Chavez of receiving benefits “in excess of $10,000 from the Public Housing Operating Fund and Public Housing Capital Fund of the United States Department of
It further alleges that Chavez “used her position as an agent of the Levelland Housing Authority to embezzle, and without authority, knowingly convert to her own use property worth at least $5,000 owned by and under the control of the Levelland Housing Authority.”
Chavez is also accused of wrongfully purchasing items for personal use using the Levelland Housing Authority’s credit accounts and wrongfully using the Levelland Housing Authority’s funds for her personal use, according to court documents.
The indictment says Chavez committed said crimes between January 1, 2011 and through June 6, 2017.
Court documents say the amount of federal money taken is more than $44,000. It also says if found guilty, Chavez will be responsible for repaying the federal money or forfeiting to the United States any other property the defendant has up to the value.