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Council prepares to tackle Calexico Housing Authority controversy

March 06, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — At a special City Council meeting here tonight, the council could vote to step in and replace the entire Calexico Housing Authority board after receiving continued complaints from residents of Casas del Sol and members of the authority board itself.

The controversy stems from a Housing Authority-administered program in which the residents of the Casas del Sol projects would have the ability to purchase the homes they now rent.

Calexico Mayor Javier Alatorre said he doesn't support replacing the Housing Authority board.

"We don't have proof that any one of the board members has been negligent," said Alatorre.

Said Calexico City Councilman Gilbert Grijalva of the meeting: "I think both parties are pretty strong in their stance. Discussion could get pretty heated."

Still, Grijalva doesn't think the commission will be replaced tonight. He said a hearing of some sort likely will be set.

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The special meeting is scheduled at 6:30 tonight, the same time as the council's regularly scheduled meeting. Both meetings will be in City Hall, 608 Heber Ave.

Alatorre said at last Friday's special meeting on the controversial housing issue, council members were advised by City Attorney Michael Rood to set a hearing date and solicit written complaints of specific charges against the authority commissioners instead of taking over without just cause.

Rood acknowledged residents and board members have directed complaints at Housing Authority Executive Director Lupita Rios and members of the board regarding their lack of action in providing new housing opportunities in the city over the past four to five years.

However, Rood said the claims of negligence need to be filed with the city clerk and presented to the council.

After the council receives the formal complaints, a hearing would be set up and at least 10 days' notice would have to be given before any action could take place, according to Rood.

"Initially, the complaints were aimed at the 5H program, but at the last meeting I may have heard complaints that got out of that realm," he added.

Housing Authority commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Solano on Monday indicated the crux of the complaints is about the 5H program, which would enable the residents of Casas del Sol to purchase the units they live in.

He added the process described by Rood would mean even greater delays before homes could be sold at Casas del Sol.

"We should have sold those houses four years ago," Solano said.

Solano said he will present a "paper trail" he says proves Rios has known for years the exact process the Housing Authority was to follow to be authorized to sell homes through the 5H program.

"We are responsible. … We can't blame the City Council and can't blame (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)," said Solano. "We didn't handle the situation right."

Furthermore, Solano claims other projects have fallen by the wayside because of Rios' repeated attempts to petition HUD for the transfer of funding and Section 8 vouchers as part of the 5H program. Those requests and petitions repeatedly have been denied by HUD officials.

Solano contends the authority under Rios' direction and the board's action has not acted on recommendations made by HUD and the authority's paid consultants in a timely manner.

Solano includes himself as part of the problem, saying he has only recently "done the homework" and delved deeper into the situation.

Solano said he will make the recommendation tonight the board be replaced by the City Council.

Alatorre said he doesn't agree any such replacement of the commission should happen, adding Rios has a number of supporters, including the voting majority of the commission — commissioners John Romo, Jose Quiroz, Isabel Aguilar and Gloria Rodriguez.

The four commissioners placed an ad in this newspaper Sunday in which they presented a different view of the 5H issue in a letter.

"During June 2000 a detailed summary of the process of the 5 (h) Homeownership Plan was provided to the Calexico City Council. No opportunity was availed to the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners to dispute or clarify any allegations or answer any questions," the letter in the ad stated.

Said Solano: "That's where they (the four commissioners) messed up. … They are trying to pass the buck to the City Council for not getting anything done. There are a couple of council members that are upset about this."

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