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Harassment allegations, problems with housing program surface at Calexico Housing Authority meeting

May 18, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Police officers broke up a war of words between the chairman and vice chairman of the city Housing Authority board before Thursday's special meeting.

The argument sparked a four-hour long meeting that featured new allegations of resident harassment by authority staff and a recap of another delay in official approval of the 5H homeownership plan.

The meeting ended with an executive-session discussion centered on the procedure that would be involved to fire Housing Authority Executive Director Lupita Rios.

But it all started with an argument.

"This man called me a pig," Chairman John Romo said, pointing to Vice Chairman Jesus "Chuy" Solano.

Calexico police Officer Eric Hackett stood with his arms crossed near the fuming Romo as Solano looked on from his seat.

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"He verbally assaulted me and challenged me to fight outside. I would like to file a civil complaint," Romo said.

Hackett informed Romo he only handles criminal matters.

He said Romo and Solano were squabbling like two children and recommended they take care of the dispute by the board's parliamentary process.

City Councilman Frank Montoya approached the dais of City Hall chambers and told Romo, "You're making this too big of a deal."

Romo looked at Hackett and Montoya incredulously.

"I'm making this a big deal?" Romo asked. "This is terroristic treatment!"

Hackett asked Romo, "You feel this is a terroristic threat?"

"Sure," he answered.

After Romo, Montoya and Hackett filed into the hallway to discuss matters privately, Solano started Thursday's meeting.

Romo pleaded his case to the officer, Montoya, Mayor Pro Tem John Renison and a second Calexico police officer in the hall.

"This is the last straw," Romo said. "I'll go to court. I'm willing to do that."

Inside the chambers, Rodrigo Hueso, told the board that authority staff has been harassing her family about rent.

She said the strain on the family has put her mother in the hospital.

"It's a violation of my rights as a resident," she said.

Hackett entered council chambers and gestured to Solano. As Solano walked toward the hallway, Romo addressed Renison and Montoya, blaming them for the argument.

"It's your fault because you let him get away with things," Romo said.

Solano joined Romo and the others in the hall.

Inside, Commissioner Manuel Ayala questioned acting Executive Director Juan Ortiz about the harassment accusation. Ortiz said the complaint would be handled in due time.

Ayala asked him if authority eviction notices were handled in the same "relaxed" time frame.

As Ortiz prepared to answer, Romo and Solano returned to their chairs.

The full board discussed the grievance committee, started by Romo, which was to have given residents a chance to air their problems to board members without fear of authority retaliation.

Maria Teresa Gasca, Resident Council president, said residents haven't been going to the grievance committee meetings because of Romo.

Romo addressed his comments to the city councilmen in attendance.

"I could solve the problems of the residents in a week but they don't want to work with me. It's a personal thing," Romo said.

"You got that right," Gasca said.

"Look, lady — OK fine. We still need to work together despite the personal issues." Romo said.

"Let's meet then tomorrow so we can fix everything in a week," Gasca said.

"Ma'am I can't just look at my calendar here," Romo said.

Gasca walked away from the podium shaking her head.

Ema Silva, secretary of the Resident Council, held up the Housing Authority's five-year plan, saying "There has still not been a translation. It has been almost three weeks now and I still haven't been able to … been able to …" Silva trailed off.

"Well?" Romo asked.

"I'm sorry Mr. Romo I'm nervous because of what happened in the beginning of the meeting," Silva said.

"You're out of order," Romo told her.

Shot back Solano: "No, you're out of order, Romo."

Silva stood at the podium, glasses perched on her nose. "… very nervous," she added.

After the gavel was pounded a few times, she finished her earlier thought.

"I haven't been able to get resident input yet because the plan hasn't been translated and have found problems in the materials I have reviewed," she said.

Ortiz explained in detail the process the administration used to create the plan. He said the plan is in the translation process and should be completed soon.

Silva said there are still some issues with the plan despite Ortiz' explanation and assurances.

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

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