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Calexico shuns Ortiz, defies direct order from HUD

August 10, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Defying a direct order from the Los Angeles office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Calexico Housing Authority board of commissioners voted 4-1 to not name Juan Ortiz the authority's acting executive director.

Earlier this week, Bob Cook, HUD regional director in Los Angeles, spoke to both the chairman of the authority board, Jesus "Chuy" Solano, and the authority's administrative services director, Ortiz, via a conference call.

According to the two, Cook told Solano that Ortiz was supposed to take control of the authority while Executive Director Lupita Rios is on a leave of absence.

The board voted to ignore Cook's direction after a conference with its attorney, Eduardo Rivera.

Commissioner John Romo dissented.

Rivera called Cook's direction "very radical" and said Cook is "mistaken in many things."

"There is information that Cook has that has not been substantiated," Rivera said.

He told the board it was following state bylaws and had the authority to set policy at an executive level.


This legal advice from Rivera clashed with Cook's interpretation of the board's role, according to Solano and Ortiz.

The two said Cook told them if Ortiz took over as acting director, the board would have no control over his actions but could only offer advice or suggestions.

Ortiz agreed to take over the job under the set of rules outlined by Cook. He had turned down the position earlier this month because he said the demands of the board were unrealistic.

According to Ortiz and Solano, Cook told them the recent actions of the board — including negotiations with City Councilman Gilbert Grijalva to step in as acting director and the removal of the authority's computerized phone system — were improper and unacceptable.

Cook told the two a "special assessment team" would be dispatched to Calexico to take control of the authority.

When Solano asked Cook when the team would arrive, he said he was told it could be in "days, weeks or months."

Cook did not send any letters or written correspondence to the authority board to back up his direction.

According to Rivera, Cook gave no concrete answer to why he was taking action or how the board was acting improperly.

Since there was no written explanation from HUD, the board had no legal reason to follow Cook's direction, according to Commissioner Irene Hueso-Mora.

Her opinion was backed by Rivera, who said, "Mr. Cook has not been kind enough to send us a letter to explain his actions."

"If you wanted to (the board) could name Mr. Cook executive director and let him take care of the agendas and take notes at the meeting," Rivera said.

Cook is on vacation, according to HUD's Los Angeles office.

Questions for HUD concerning the Calexico situation were forwarded to the Washington, D.C., office but were not answered as of presstime.

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

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