Guam Housing and Urban Development board member Joseph Cameron resigned from his position Monday in the wake of a revised federal lawsuit filed Friday by GHURA Executive Director Ray Topasna, which names all 6 of the current board members as defendants.
In his resignation letter to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, Cameron states “the most recent suit lodged against me by Ray Topasna ... shatters me.”
He went on to write that “actions ... deemed inappropriate by prior board members are of no consequence to my official capacity as a Commissioner years later.”
Cameron told The Guam Daily Post in a telephone interview that he and the other board members were confirmed by the Legislature and entrusted with a public responsibility.
By naming him and the other board members in his lawsuit, Cameron said, “Topasna has betrayed the public trust.”
Cameron’s resignation was effective immediately. The governor now must nominate a replacement for him.
“All the current members of the board, unfortunately, were named,” in the lawsuit, Topasna explained in a telephone interview with the Post.
Topasna said his attorney advised that naming the board members was “a legal necessity” and not a reflection of the character of any board member.
“They’re not being sued individually,” said Topasna. “The housing authority is being sued.”
“The board and I have a very good working relationship,” he said, adding, “Do they think it's personal and I’m going after them, absolutely not.”
“It is unfortunate that Mr. Cameron has tendered his resignation,” Topasna stated. “We wish him well. GHURA will be just fine.”
The current GHURA board includes Chairman Sabino Flores, and Vice Chairwoman Monica Guzman, Carl Dominguez, George Pereda, and Joe Leon Guerrero.
Former FBI agent and Guam police chief Frank Ishizaki was nominated to the board’s seventh member. But he told the Post on Tuesday that he is “reconsidering his appointment” and plans to speak with Topasna this week about the lawsuit before moving forward with his confirmation hearing to the GHURA board.
Topasna’s lawsuit was originally filed in 2013 when he first served as GHURA’s director during then Gov. Eddie Calvo’s administration.
Topasna's lawsuit alleges he was terminated because he opposed payments to Mark Smith, who was Gov. Calvo’s brother-in-law at the time.
Topasna says he opposed payments to Smith when Smith was the legal counsel of GHURA and at the same time a landlord to some of GHURA’s federally funded Section 8 housing program tenants.
After Topasna was fired, Smith was subsequently indicted on allegations of receiving $281,131 in rent payments as a landlord under the Section 8 program. His case ended in a mistrial.
Federal prosecutors have since filed a civil complaint seeking triple the amount of damages against Smith because he allegedly failed to disclose his conflict of interest.
Topasna’s lawsuit seeks compensation for the years following the loss of his job at GHURA. Topasna is seeking two times the amount of back pay that he says is owed to him for the years he was kept out of GHURA following his termination. He made more than $100,000 a year at GHURA before he was fired. He'd been out of the executive director's job for about six years, so his lawsuit, which is seeking double in back pay, plus damages, could result in more than $1 million.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s administration rehired Topasna earlier this year as GHURA executive director.