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Rios returns to work at Calexico Housing Authority

August 30, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Lupita Rios, executive director of the Calexico Housing Authority, has returned to run the administration she left a month ago.

On Wednesday — three days into her return week — Rios said she is "happy to be back and ready to work and provide the quality service people expect."

However, in the three days she has been back she has found out the job she left is a bit different than the one to which she returned.

In the four weeks that she was on medical leave, the new chairman of the authority's board of commissioners requested and received the assignment of a special assessment team from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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This team is a collection of HUD representatives who will monitor, evaluate and recommend solutions to any problems the team finds in the authority.

The team could be monitoring the authority from six months to two years, or however long it takes to solve any problems it uncovers.

The arrival of the team has changed the way the authority's administration conducts business.

Before Rios can make any major administrative decisions, she has to contact the HUD team for approval. That is a departure from how she ran the authority and will be a required part of doing business until the team is finished, she said.

"I don't feel that it is needed but nevertheless I feel that it is welcomed. I look forward to them letting us know exactly how we are doing," Rios said.

"Our audits are showing a stable and well-run operation," she added.

On Wednesday afternoon, Rios spoke with Catherine Lamberg, who is heading the HUD team.

Rios said the first step the team will take is acquiring the services of an independent contractor to assess the agency.

She said it would be a thorough assessment that would delve into the authority's financing, management and procurement policies.

The management portion of the assessment would look into the application for the homeownership plan for Casas del Sol families that has been in the works for more than eight years.

Rios said, "It's my understanding the team will be determining the feasibility of the program. Everything is at a standstill until HUD does a review."

This means residents of Casas del Sol, who had been only weeks from being able to buy the homes they rent from the authority, will have to wait until the assessment team looks at the authority's plan.

Rios acknowledged "there is always room for improvement" within the authority administration but said she is confident the independent contractor will prove what she has said all along.

"I think overall, the excellent physical appearance of the projects is reflective of the administration," Rios said.

She said Lamberg did not give her any direction on how she should do her job.

The project Rios was planning on addressing before she left is the project she is working on now.

"I'm working with the authority's department heads on finishing up the financial statement we must submit to HUD at the end of every fiscal year," Rios said.

She said she hasn't heard from authority board chairman Jesus "Chuy" Solano regarding the list of changes he wanted to see enacted by the administration.

"I haven't talked to him. Basically I'm trying to catch up. I've been out for a month and there is a lot to do. I started running and I'm trying to catch up.

"As far as anything that happened while I was gone … I'm still being brought up to date," she said.

In the final week of her leave, maintenance employee Peter Castro filled in as interim executive director.

Rios said, "He was here for a week. He gave me a list of things he did and things that were pending. I appreciate his assistance."

She said she is "not worried at all" about her status with the authority. "My contract expires on July of 2003."

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

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