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Housing official recommends putting 5-H program on hold

January 15, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — A Memphis-based federal housing official shrugged off the latest actions by Calexico's Housing Authority board of commissioners.

On Monday, Catherine Lamberg said, "Our job is to provide them advice and guidance."

Lamberg is director of the Troubled Agency Recovery Center, an office within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For the past few months, staffers from her office have been in Calexico working with and advising housing administration staffers at the invitation of the authority's board of commissioners.

Lately, the advice has been ignored.

At the end of December, the board scrapped the rotating executive director system recommended by Lamberg's office.

Her office had advised installing one different staffer a month as interim executive director to foster a sense of camaraderie among administrators.

After a month under such a setup, the board hired Christina Rojas as interim executive director for at least three months. Rojas had been the first in command under the rotation system.


At the same December meeting, the board decided to extend the contract of Atlanta-based Goodwin and Associates. Goodwin had been brought in last spring by the board to implement a federal program that would allow the low-income families of Casas del Sol to buy the homes they rent from the authority.

After the original contract with Goodwin expired, Lamberg's staffers advised allowing her office to pick a new consultant that would take over the implementation at a later date. That advice went unheeded.

"We recommended they afford us the opportunity to work with them," Lamberg said.

Regarding the extension of Goodwin's contract, she said, "There is an issue of ‘What are you getting for your money?'"

Jesus "Chuy" Solano, chairman of the authority board, said, "They're trying to kill the 5H."

"5H" is a federal program that allows tenants of housing authorities to purchase their homes.

Regarding the action of Lamberg's office, Solano said, "We've submitted a letter to President Bush."

A white House staffer directed questions for President Bush to his West Coast media affairs representative, who could not be reached.

Meanwhile back in Memphis, Lamberg said her office recommended "placing the program on hold" after an independent assessment of the Calexico Housing Authority by New York consultants determined, "current staff do not have the adequate time or capability to implement the program."

To address the capability issue, Lamberg's office recommended extensive training.

To train board members and residents on the specifics of HUD guidelines, the board hired Linton E. Jackson and Associates of Los Angeles.

After his firm fulfilled the contract, Jackson asked to be paid — and then some.

It turns out he billed the Calexico Housing Authority for work he did for another agency. That information was made public during Thursday's board meeting.

Contacted in Los Angeles on Monday, Jackson said he "resubmitted everything today."

In other news from Thursday's meeting, the board found out former board chairman John Romo had submitted a letter of resignation earlier that day.

The phone numbers Romo had been contacted at in the past were not answered by a Romo or an answering machine Monday.

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

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