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Rios no longer running agency

November 09, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — As of Thursday, Lupita Rios is no longer running the day-to-day operations of the Calexico Housing Authority.

Whether she is officially fired as executive director of the authority is still in doubt.

On Thursday, after a closed-door meeting at the authority's office, Juan Ortiz said, "I don't know if she is fired, but she is not here and the team is here."

Ortiz is the authority's financial director and has filled in for Rios in the past as interim executive director.

"The team" is the Troubled Agency Recovery Center team of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD sent the team to Calexico at the request of the authority's board chairman, Jesus "Chuy" Solano.

Contacted for a comment yesterday, Solano said Rios was fired after a late-night executive session Tuesday, but she has until Wednesday to contest the board's action.

Catherine Lamberg, director of HUD's Memphis-based recovery center, had not heard about the board's actions as of Thursday afternoon.


She said she and members of her team waited for more than two hours while the housing board debated during Tuesday's executive session but left before hearing the result of that session.

As of Thursday, "I have not received a call for an update," she said.

Asked about the legality of the board's pending action, Lamberg said Rios could be fired, "If (the board) shows it has sufficient terms per her contract."

Asked if he thought the board had "sufficient terms" Solano said, "We do. What else do you need from the assessment team?"

One of the findings of an independent assessment of the Calexico Housing Authority's operations alleges a conflict arose between the board and the executive director after Rios ran for City Council last year.

There also is a litany of findings in the assessment team's report alleging problems with the administration's bookkeeping and efficiency.

On Thursday, Soila Nethery of the HUD recovery team briefed Calexico's housing employees at the closed-door meeting. Afterward she deferred all questions to Lamberg in Memphis.

Lamberg said, "Our role as HUD, it does not change. We're not in control of anything."

"If the board elects to terminate the executive director then (it) would need to appoint an interim director," she said.

On Nov. 20, the Calexico City Council could decide to remove the entire board and install itself as the authority's governing body while the recovery team overhauls the administration's finances and staffing levels.

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

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