SAN ANTONIO - What would you do if you thought your boss was misspending taxpayer's money? One woman who worked at a government funded agency says she confronted her boss, and was fired.
Your tax dollars go to fund the Community Council of South Central Texas based in Seguin. The non-profit helps the elderly and low income families get help through programs like head start and meals on wheels.
So when the executive director Robert Lucio went on a trip and double dipped on his expenses, his executive assistant, Mary Lou Castillo, says she asked him to pay it back – and that cost the job she’d held for 20 years.
“I'm disillusioned, I'm upset, angry,” says Castillo.
The expenses Castillo says she questioned were from a 2011 trip to a conference in Seattle. Lucio had the agency buy a plane ticket for his wife and advance him for the hotel stay which he later put on the agency credit card. But when he came back and turned in his expenses, he told the agency - it owed him money.
Castillo went over the expenses with the business manager. “He did receive an advance for the hotel. But then she also pointed out that he used the agency credit card, or directed staff to use the agency credit card to pay for airfare for his wife who accompanied him on the trip,” says Castillo.
She sent her boss this email, saying he needed to repay the agency $772 and later met with lucio in his office. “When I started the meeting I said I know I’m taking a risk. I'm risking my position. You're the executive director. But I need to address this with you,” says Castillo. “He ended the conversation by saying, oh by the way, you're fired.”
Lucio later apologized in an email for the "you are fired" comment. But shortly after that meeting last summer Castillo was fired for real. Weeks earlier she'd been given a glowing evaluation by Lucio who wrote - “Ms Castillo’s quality of work is superb.”
Castillo is now suing the agency, and her attorney found something interesting about Lucio's trip at taxpayer's expense. A ferry boat receipt Lucio turned in from the Seattle conference shows the executive director was not at a conference that day. Instead he was miles away boarding a ferry headed to scenic Puget Sound with his wife for some sightseeing - at 11 o'clock in the morning.
“It's outrageous. You have a person that is paid by taxpayer dollars who uses agency funds as a personal vacation fund,” says attorney Mark Anthony Sanchez. “And I think Mary Lou Castillo, rather than being terminated, should have been commended for looking out for your interest and mine.”
I asked Castillo is she regretted what she did. “No, I don't. I did the right thing. I did what I was directed to do,” says Mary Lou.
As for Lucio, he did eventually pay back the $772, but only after Castillo said she would report it to the board of directors. Lucio and his lawyer did not return repeated calls for comment. The case will be heard in court next month.