Council delays housing picks

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By David Giuliani

The City Council approved Mayor Tony Marquez’s appointments for a number of city committees on Wednesday, but it delayed action on his selections for the housing committee.

For the housing committee, the mayor recommended the appointments of Lorenzo Flores as chairman, former Councilman Macario Gonzalez, Pamela Daves, JoAnn Elliott and Grover Durham.

However, Councilman Cruz Roybal, who has long taken an interest in public housing issues and is a former chairman of the housing committee, said he wanted to speak confidentially with Marquez and City Attorney Carlos Quiones about the selections. He said it was obvious the mayor didn’t know the specific criteria for the appointment of members to the housing committee.

Councilman Morris Madrid said he backed Roybal’s request and suggested the council delay the item until the meeting’s end, so Marquez could speak privately with Roybal.

Marquez said the city had nothing to hide and that Roybal should speak about his concerns publicly.

In response, Roybal said the council couldn’t select someone to the committee who has an outstanding debt with the housing authority.

The council then voted to delay consideration of the issue until the end of its meeting.

Later in the meeting, Roybal proposed the council go into closed session to discuss the housing committee. But attorney Quiones said the council couldn’t legally take such a topic behind closed doors.

“Based on what you said, it doesn’t fall under the exceptions to the Open Meetings Act,” Quiones told Roybal.

The council can discuss issues related to specific personnel in closed session, but “personnel” isn’t defined to include committee members or elected officials.

Roybal said he could speak about the matter in open session and that if he spoke about something that should be mentioned in closed session, it would be “on the attorney’s back.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Roybal told Quiones.

But he never did discuss further his problems about the committee members.

After a closed session on a unrelated matter, the council voted unanimously to delay a decision on the housing committee.

“We should find out the rules and err on the side of caution,” Madrid said. “Let’s bring this back to the table for the very next council meeting.”

Roybal suggested that the mayor consult with a housing expert first.

During the public input portion of the meeting, Flores, a longtime local activist, told the council that he has locked horns with Roybal before but that he respected him.

“Anyone who condescends to him has a beef with me,” he said.

He criticized the city for failing to comply with federal housing regulations and questioned council members’ calls for a federal official to come before the council.

“The city is trying to tell HUD, ‘You need to explain.’ It’s the city that needs to explain to HUD,” he said.

Flores had left the meeting by the time the council took up the housing committee appointments.

He said this morning that he was evicted from public housing in the 1980s because he had found wrongdoing in the authority. He said he didn’t pay a small debt because the city had moved to evict him.

“I do owe them, but I’ve been out of housing for 20-some years,” Flores said.

He said Roybal has his reasons for keeping him off the committee.

“Housing was Cruzito’s baby. Now it needs its diaper changed, and Cruzito doesn’t like that,” Flores said. “I’m really grateful Tony Marquez would consider me.”

Earlier in the meeting, the council approved membership for several committees:

• Finance and audit: Mayor Tony Marquez as chairman, Della Valerio, Gilbert Vallejos, Matt Martinez, Kathy Tapia and Councilman Morris Madrid.

• Recreation committee: Natalie Quintana, Eloy Gonzales, Hilda Ramirez, George Romero and Councilman Morris Madrid.

• Extra-territorial Zoning Commission: Dwight Torres and Lawrence Pino.

• Planning and Zoning: Lawrence Sandoval and Nick Michalski. Five other members were already appointed: Robert Korte, Alex Aragon, David Romero, Donna Okinga Nathan and Zeke Larraaga.

• Americans with Disabilities Act Committee: Bonnet Gurul as chairperson, Meredith Britt, Shela Silverman, Linda Thayer and Steve Johnson.