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Stricter guidelines for Calexico HA

November 06, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Eight representatives of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sat in the City Council chambers here as the Calexico Housing Authority board voted to sign off on a document that will mandate strict guidelines for the board and administration.

A recently conducted independent assessment of the Housing Authority's mode of operations factored into the scope of the guidelines, according to Catherine Lamberg of the Memphis HUD office.

The assessment by a New York accounting firm alleged mistakes in the authority's bookkeeping, improper policy decisions by the authority's board of commissioners and politically motivated board appointments.

While some of the contentions within the firm's assessment were contradicted by City Council members, authority administrators and commissioners Monday, the board signed the HUD memorandum of understanding with little discussion or debate as to the specifics within the document.

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Board attorney Eduardo Rivera urged the commissioners to cut short various points of debate not precisely related to the main agenda item.

This morning the chairman of the authority board, Jesus "Chuy" Solano, said he had been ready to counter some of the findings in the assessment with his own findings but voted to implement the MOU quickly after discussions with Lamberg.

"She was professional and seemed willing to work with the board," Solano said.

During the meeting, Lamberg said the MOU is a "plan for improvement" that would serve "as a solution on how to improve the housing for the residents that live here."

She put to rest concerns that there might be fines or fiscal penalties as a result of the assessment team's findings.

"Oh no, we will work to get money spent here that hasn't been spent and work to get more grant money sent here," she said.

The team found evidence the authority's administration has federal grant money sitting in accounts, not being spent on programs and not being invested to gain interest.

While there are still some issues with the specifics of the MOU that have to be ironed out, those issues will be discussed at a special authority board meeting, according to Solano.

One of the biggest issues is the federal homeownership program for residents of the Casas del Sol projects near the New River.

The assessment team recommended delaying the implementation of the program that would let low-income Casas families buy the homes they rent even though the residents have already taken classes toward homeownership and had their homes prepped for appraisal.

Residents at Monday's meeting called on the board to move forward with the home-buying program because the problems of the board and the administration are not their fault.

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

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