The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has intervened and suspended former West New York Commissioner Ruben Vargas from his $35,000 a year job at the local housing authority.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“HUD sent a letter directly to Ruben Vargas and he was suspended without pay, pending an appeal and the final disposition of his case,” West New York Housing Authority Executive Director Bob DiVincent told Hudson County View earlier this week.
The longtime head of the agency added that the suspension was effective last Friday, crediting Vargas, who pleaded guilty to equity skimming last month, for notifying the authority right away after receiving the letter.
DiVincent further stated that he has no plans to hire anyone else to act as the head of security while Vargas, who took over the post in February 2015, is serving his suspension.
“We’ll be using existing personnel to work through the process while we wait and see what happens,” DiVincent said.
Olga Alvarez, the region II (which includes New York and New Jersey) spokeswoman for HUD, told us yesterday that the HUD Departmental Enforcement Center issued the letter to Vargas. She was not immediately able to provide a copy of the letter.
According to their website, the HUD “DEC focuses on assuring the highest standards of ethics, management and accountability in the resolution of HUD’s troubled properties.”
Given that Vargas’ criminal complaint accuses him of obtaining a $417,000 loan insured by HUD (an FHA loan), not making any payments on it despite still collecting rent at 5512 Grant Pl., it stands to reason that he would not be allowed to work at an agency that receives significant funding from HUD.
“… We [myself and labor counsel] both concur that there is nothing in the plea agreement that requires that Mr. Vargas forfeit his office. That was not a lapse by the U.S. Attorney’s Office: they don’t make mistakes,” he said at the time.
Leanza added that the authority planned to “act accordingly” when Vargas is sentenced in Trenton federal court on August 18.
DiVincent also said the housing authority board was notified of the latest development with Vargas during a closed session of Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting.
Vargas’ attorney in the matter, Chris Adams, of Holmdel, could not be reached as his office on Thursday since he is on vacation.