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Our Opinion: Not a conflict?

August 11, 2001

Conflicts of interest are tricky, as accusations are far easier to throw into the court of public opinion than is proof.

In the case of Calexico Councilman Gilbert Grijalva, who was wooed by the Calexico Housing Authority Commission to become its interim executive director while Lupita Rios is on a leave of absence, all indications are there was a conflict of interest.

After all, as a City Council member, Grijalva had a hand in approving the appointments of all five authority commissioners, all of whom would have become his bosses if he took the interim position. Common sense tells us an elected official should not be employed by those he put in power, particularly when that elected official is still in office.

If that's not a conflict, than the dictionary and legal definitions need revision. It sure looks a lot like a dog chasing his tail.


Still, according to Calexico City Attorney Michael Rood and Housing Authority interim legal counsel Eduardo Rivera, there was no conflict in such a setup.

Whatever. This still smelled fishy. And we are glad that negotiations between Grijalva and the authority board may be over, at least according to what we are hearing.

We've always liked Grijalva. He's an intelligent man who has made what we think are mostly fair, informed decisions in the best interest of his community. But we have to call him on the carpet on this one.

Grijalva recently stated his intent to run against Rudy Maldonado for the District 5 Imperial Irrigation District board seat, so the timing of this Housing Authority debacle couldn't be worse.

If Grijalva is considering a larger future in politics, what he got embroiled in won't win him any votes. While this is seemingly minor and it probably won't cause him to lose an election, it ultimately won't help his credibility.

Apparently we're not the only ones who have been wincing at the negotiations between the authority board and Grijalva. A high-ranking official with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — the federal agency that subsidizes the low-income housing offered by the authority — appears to have found some of the board's actions, including the Grijalva negotiations, not exactly sterling. HUD officials never overtly stated there was a conflict, but we don't think anyone can misinterpret HUD's message.

HUD even went as far as to direct the authority board to appoint Juan Ortiz, the authority's administrative services director, as interim executive director, a suggestion the board dismissed, voting to not appoint Ortiz. Ortiz earlier had said he didn't want the job if the board continued its shenanigans, and we certainly see his point.

This is all a big mess that by now we imagine some are wanting to sweep under the carpet.

Brooms won't clean up this mess.

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