Romo resigns from Calexico Housing Authority

January 16, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — John Romo took a few parting shots at the Calexico Housing Authority board of commissioners.

In his letter of resignation dated Thursday, the former board chairman wrote, "For the past year I have been publicly undermined, verbally attacked and accused of misleading allegations. In addition, members of the board have fail (sic) to recognize me as an equal member with the same rights, privileges and obligations that have seriously subverted the board's mission/role of a housing commissioner. I have been arbitrarily removed from several committees in which I was currently serving with unfairness and disrespect. Consequently, rendering me as an ineffective commissioner. Continuing as a board member will only compromise my ethics and values which I am not willing to relinquish. Moreover, I will not participate with the unwarranted actions that this board has undertaken."

Romo specifically mentioned the board's reimbursement of $500 to the Resident Council as one of the "unwarranted" actions.


During the time Romo was chairman, representatives of the Resident Council asked the board to reimburse the cost of a newspaper advertisement.

At a number of meetings their request was denied by Romo and the majority of the board.

After Solano became chairman and new commissioners were appointed, the board approved reimbursing the cost of the ad despite Romo's dissension.

Asked about the allegations Romo referred to in his letter, board Chairman Jesus "Chuy" Solano said Romo stepped down after commissioners found out about an allegedly improper association.

Solano said a Los Angeles housing consultant paid Romo's utility bills with a credit card and loaned him $300 before the board hired the consultant to provide training on federal housing regulations. The board, including Solano and Romo, voted to hire the consultant in fall 2001.

On Monday, the consultant in question, Linton E. Jackson, said he did some "favors" for Romo before he was hired by the board.

On Tuesday, Romo said the favors were not "monetary." He said he has known Jackson for more than seven years.

"I wish Solano would stop alleging things he doesn't know anything about," Romo said.

A recap of a heated exchange during a May 17 Housing Authority meeting illustrates the divisions between the board and residents during at least part of Romo's seven-year tenure.

"This man called me a pig," then-Chairman Romo said, pointing to then-Vice Chairman Solano.

A Calexico police officer, Eric Hackett, stood with his arms crossed near the fuming Romo as Solano looked on from his seat.

"He verbally assaulted me and challenged me to fight outside. I would like to file a civil complaint," Romo said.

Hackett said he only handles criminal matters.

Hackett told Romo and Solano they were squabbling like children and recommended they take care of the dispute by the board's parliamentary process.

While Hackett spoke, City Councilman Frank Montoya approached the dais of the City Hall chambers and told Romo, "You're making this too big of a deal."

Romo looked at Hackett and Montoya incredulously.

"I'm making this a big deal?" Romo asked. "This is terroristic treatment!"

Hackett asked Romo, "You feel this is a terroristic threat?"

"Sure," he answered.

After Romo, Montoya and Hackett filed into the hallway to discuss matters, Solano started the May 17 meeting.

In the hallway, Romo pleaded his case to Hackett, Montoya, Mayor Pro Tem John Renison and a second Calexico police officer.

"This is the last straw," Romo said. "I'll go to court. I'm willing to do that."

Inside the chambers, Housing Authority resident Rodrigo Hueso said the authority staff had been harassing her family about rent. She said the strain on the family put her mother in the hospital.

"It's a violation of my rights as a resident," she said.

Hackett entered the chambers and gestured to Solano. As Solano walked toward the hallway, Romo addressed Renison and Montoya, blaming them for the argument.

"It's your fault because you let him get away with things," Romo said.

Solano joined Romo and the others in the hall.

Inside, Commissioner Manuel Ayala questioned then-acting Executive Director Juan Ortiz about the harassment accusation. Ortiz said the complaint would be handled in due time.

Ayala asked Ortiz if the authority passed out eviction notices in the same relaxed time frame. As Ortiz prepared to answer, Romo and Solano returned to their chairs.

The full board discussed the grievance committee, started by Romo, which was to have given residents a chance to air their problems to board members without fear of authority retaliation. That was one of the committees Romo mentioned being removed from in his letter.

Maria Teresa Gasca, resident council president, said residents haven't been going to the grievance committee meetings because of Romo.

Romo addressed his comments to the city councilmen in attendance.

"I could solve the problems of the residents in a week but they don't want to work with me. It's a personal thing," Romo said.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles