Odessa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Garza has been fired effective immediately, according to chamber board president Ben Quiroz.
Odessa Headlines spoke with Quiroz Tuesday afternoon, who said the chamber let Garza go after discovering a “misappropriation of funds” and went on to say the chamber would be pressing criminal charges.
Quiroz stated that taxpayer funds given to the Hispanic Chamber by the Odessa Economic Development Corporation were not taken as they are kept in another bank account Garza did not have access to.
Garza was hired on as the new CEO in January of this year and immediately came under fire from a local watchdog group, the Accountability Project, who pointed out that Garza had a criminal record including recently having been accused of embezzling funds from another non-profit.
“In 2017 Paul was arrested and charged with stealing more than $9000.00 from a non-profit organization,” the Accountability Project wrote in a February 3 Facebook post. “The board members wished to pursue charges, however, the district attorney dropped charges 5 months after the accusations surfaced citing lack of evidence.”
The Accountability Project also pointed out in their opposition to Garza’s hiring that he had also previously made the “Top 5 Most Wanted List,” as he at one point had a significant number of active arrest warrants.
Concern regarding Garza’s past arose due to the fact the Hispanic Chamber receives public funding from the Odessa Economic Development Corporation, which oversees distributing sales taxes collected for economic development.
This is a developing story.