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Castro named acting executive director of Calexico Housing Authority

August 16, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The Calexico Housing Authority board of commissioners named Peter Castro the authority's acting executive director during a special meeting Wednesday.

Castro worked with the authority's maintenance department before his promotion. He will serve as director until Executive Director Lupita Rios returns from her leave of absence.

Castro was named acting director even though Bob Cook, Southern California director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, named Juan Ortiz acting director last week.

Ortiz, the authority's administrative services director, had initially turned down the job but acquiesced after Cook told him to take the reins.

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After hearing Cook's order, the chairman of the authority board, Jesus "Chuy" Solano, faxed Washington, D.C., requesting the assistance of a HUD special assessment team.

During a meeting on Aug. 9, the board ignored Cook's direction and voted to not name Ortiz as acting director.

The board was notified the day after its decision that the team was on the way. That team arrived Wednesday.

At the start of Wednesday's meeting, the board's attorney, Eduardo Rivera, asked the five members of the team whether Cook had the authority to name Ortiz acting director.

Catherine Lamberg, in charge of the HUD team, told Rivera, the board and Housing Authority residents who filled the Mario Esquer Community Building she couldn't answer the question.

"I'm sorry. I don't have an answer to your question. I don't know the specific details concerning the conversation with Mr. Cook and I certainly can't speak for him," Lamberg said.

Rivera told the board that if there was no clear explanation from HUD regarding the exact role the board has in hiring decisions, "it could take action in the most dramatic fashion."

"The board could name an acting director and force the special assessment team to assess that action," Rivera said.

He added the board was following state law and had every right to hire whomever it wanted as director.

"There is nothing magical about (Ortiz)," he said.

Lamberg said in some cases federal regulations supersede state law but she qualified her statement by saying "I'm not an attorney, but we do have those folks."

"I'm going to make a couple of assumptions here," she said. "I assume that you have a personnel policy in place and that Mr. Cook is familiar with that policy."

She continued, "I assume that being familiar with that policy he instructed you based on that."

"Any decision you make should be consistent with that policy," she added.

After hearing from Lamberg, the board voted to name Castro as acting director.

The board then voted to officially "work with" the assessment team.

Lamberg said HUD will hire an independent assessment contractor who will examine the issues that need to be addressed, propose solutions and set a timetable for results.

She said the process could take months or years and the team will not stop working with Calexico until every problem is remedied.

She said the board will no longer be dealing with Cook because he turned over jurisdiction to her office.

‘Flattered' Grijalva out of picture

Now that the Calexico Housing Authority board has hired Peter Castro as acting director, the board won't be working with City Councilman Gilbert Grijalva in any management or consulting capacity.

That's just fine by him.

"I was flattered that they offered me a job and I know that I could do the job but I never wanted to be acting executive director," Grijalva said.

"If the board would have hired me, I would have only helped them as a consultant," he added.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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