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Ortiz under fire for perceived wrongs of Housing Authority

May 15, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — It wasn't a cross-examination of Juan Ortiz; it just seemed like it.

Ortiz, acting executive director of the Calexico Housing Authority while Executive Director Lupita Rios is on vacation, was grilled Monday for an hour and a half by Housing Authority commissioners and authority residents.

They blasted him, as a representative of the administration, for a litany of what they think are sins committed against residents by the housing administration.

Among the transgressions: the failure of the administration to seek resident input in the creation of the five-year authority plan.

The plan, a compendium of budgetary numbers, goals and regulations, took up the bulk of conversation Monday night after the regular meeting was canceled for the second straight time due to a lack of quorum. The three commissioners attending Monday's meeting decided to reschedule the next board meeting for 6 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall.

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The agency plan discussed informally Monday will be formally discussed June 14 in City Hall. It was printed in English and presented to residents for their review early last week.

Maria Teresa Gasca, resident council president, held up the 2-inch thick document and spoke to Ortiz.

"This is a lot of information, period. But it is too much information for a lot of the residents who would like to participate but can't because it is in English."

Ortiz said the administration followed all U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines in the creation of the plan.

Commissioner Irene Hueso-Mora slapped her palms on the table around which participants sat and said, "No, you didn't."

Hueso-Mora, a former authority employee, said when she worked for the authority it had to make sure every document was signed off by residents.

She asked the residents if they had participated in the creation of the document.

They all said, "No."

Ortiz said the input process was set up so the document is created and then the public can comment on it. The public can do so at the meeting June 14 and in writing as long as they submit written correspondence to the housing offices before the June meeting.

There are a few copies of the plan that can be reviewed at housing offices and one copy was given to the Resident Council.

Gasca wanted to know why the document had not been translated into Spanish so residents could more easily review it.

Ortiz said the administration was working on the parameters of a strict HUD timeline and the cost was prohibitive.

"I am not in agreement," said Vice Chairman Jesus "Chuy" Solano.

"The administration has the money to pay an attorney (Steve Walker of El Centro) but not translators for the residents?" Solano said. "Somebody is in the wrong place. We have the money to pay a pitless attorney but not the residents?"

Hueso-Mora took up the line of questioning.

"Didn't the residents have to have their input taken into consideration before this plan was drafted?" Hueso-Mora asked.

Ortiz answered, "All of the administration's decisions go to the board for approval. We are trying to do our best and working really hard."

Solano agreed with Ortiz and said it is extremely important for the board to be up on HUD regulations so it can monitor the administration.

"In any decision you make in life you need to be informed," Ortiz said.

Hueso-Mora and the secretary of the resident council, Ema Silva, clapped slowly.

"That's what we have been trying to say," Hueso-Mora said.

Silva said the residents need to be informed before the administration makes decisions on their behalf.

"The information, that's what we don't have," Silva said.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reaches at 337-3419.

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