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HUD dispatching assessment team to settle Housing Authority ‘confusion'

August 14, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The Los Angeles office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development notified the Calexico Housing Authority on Monday that a special assessment team is on the way.

"They will be coming on Wednesday," said Juan Ortiz, the authority's administrative services director.

Ortiz said he hopes the team will settle the "confusion" about who is in charge of the authority while Executive Director Lupita Rios is on a medical leave of absence. Rios is due back on Aug. 27.

Last week the authority's board of commissioners voted 4-1 to not name Ortiz acting director and pulled from its agenda an action item on the hiring of Calexico City Councilman Gilbert Grijalva as acting executive director.

Authority board Chairman Jesus "Chuy" Solano said Grijalva will not be hired now but could be offered the job of executive director in the future.


Grijalva said he didn't know what happened at the authority board meeting Thursday and hasn't talked to anyone for some time concerning a job with the authority.

As for the future, Grijalva said, "I'm not going to comment on that. I was only interested in being a consultant and I was very flattered to be considered."

According to the actions of the board at its most recent meeting, the authority has no executive director and won't name one until it receives direction from HUD.

"I think that was clear. They voted officially to reflect it on the minutes," Ortiz said.

Despite the vote, Ortiz was working Monday as a director of sorts.

"I don't think that what is going on will affect the normal operations of the authority. We are not affecting our tenants. We are doing business in the proper way," he said.

A HUD spokesman said the team will not take over the administration but instead will work cooperatively with whomever is in charge and make decisions on how to proceed based on the team's experiences in Calexico.

"I hope that this confusion will be settled by the team," Ortiz said.

According to Ortiz, he should be the acting director because Bob Cook, HUD regional director for Southern California, during a conference call with Solano, told him to take over.

Solano, three other authority board members and the board's interim legal counsel, Eduardo Rivera, said Cook's verbal order doesn't carry any weight.

Rivera has requested from Cook an explanation of his actions.

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

On Monday a HUD spokesman said, "At this stage we are responding to a request from the Housing Authority board of commissioners for a HUD assessment team to assist in determining current needs and strategies.

"HUD has accepted the request and an initial meeting will take place this week.

"The assessment team and the Housing Authority will work together to make sure that the Housing Authority meets the goals of safe and decent housing."

Does Cook have the authority to name someone acting executive director?

The spokesman said, "Mr. Cook is the regional director for Southern California."

Ortiz thinks Cook's verbal order will stick and he will be named acting director when the assessment team visits Calexico, but he's not 100 percent positive.

"As far as the discretion that Mr. Cook has, that has to be up to him. Mr. Cook will be the right person to ask. All I know is that I'm trying to do the best I can for the benefit of this organization," Ortiz said.

Solano has a different opinion.

"Mr. Cook is no longer in the picture," he said.

He added the assessment team will stay for two years and work directly with the board.

Solano said the assessment team would empower the board, "setting the record straight about how much authority we do have."

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

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