Former GHURA Executive Director Michael Duenas testified in court today against his co-defendants in the alleged conspiracy to hold secret meetings related to the low-income housing tax credits award and the ratification of a credit card held by the department.
He took the stand as part of a cooperative plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to official misconduct in the conspiracy case. Called as a witness for the government, Duenas began his testimony in court answering questions related to how the board reached the decision to award Tower 70 and Great Homes the low-income housing tax credits when they were ranked 4 and 5 out of the five bidders in 2011.
Prosecution: “So you are saying that the eight hours that you spent evaluating each applicant was presented to the board in roughly two minutes?”
Duenas: “That’s basically it. I was just told to summarize the applications.”
Following the meeting, Duenas said the board voted in favor of Tower 70 and Great Homes and while Duenas was not allowed to answer whether or not he thought this was unusual, he did state that it was unusual for him to receive a phone call on a holiday from GHURA special assistant Millie Taitano with regard to a meeting on Dec. 26, 2011. At the time, Duenas served as a chief planner for the agency. Duenas made it clear that all power and authority over GHURA lay with the board.
Duenas was also questioned about the revision of a credit card policy in April 2015 in which a poll was used to determine how board members would vote prior to the board meeting. Duenas was the executive director at the time.
He says that the poll was done in the interest of time, so that travel arrangements could be made at a cheaper cost and discount registration fees for board member Roland Selvidge to attend a conference could be availed.
He further stated that telephone polls were not uncommon and that previous boards under previous administrations also carried them out before board meetings.