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Official: Housing agency improving

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By David Giuliani

In a long-awaited appearance before the City Council, a federal official said Wednesday that the city is making progress in removing its housing authority from troubled status.

The official, Floyd Duran, also defended himself against allegations by a former employee that he had tried to “torpedo” the local authority.

In 2005, Duran placed the housing authority in troubled status after finding what he called irregularities in the finances and the waiting list for housing, among other problems. The designation meant that HUD would give the authority greater scrutiny.

Duran said he gave the authority a grade of 40 out of 100 in 2005, with a score of 60 passing. In 2006, that number rose to 59 and to 63 in 2007. He said that because of changes in HUD’s system, he is still awaiting a score for 2008.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, Gary Gaylord, the housing authority’s fee accountant, told the council that the finances have improved to the point that the federal agency may lift the troubled status.

Duran said he was pleased to hear that report from Gaylord, adding that the council made a good decision to contract with Gaylord to handle the authority’s finances. He also praised the city’s hiring of Robert Pacheco as the new housing director, saying Pacheco had done a good job in the same position in Tucumcari.

“You’ve made the correct steps to remove the authority from troubled status,” Duran said.

He said that in 2005, the city had a backlog in repairing homes, but that it now has a systematic plan to take care of such problems.

Now, Duran said, the authority needs to start its long-delayed homeownership program and spend its capital funds for home improvements.

He also said the city is free to work on getting replacement housing for the demolished development along Mills Avenue. But he said it would be prudent to wait until the authority got out of troubled status.

He said the city could tap into a federal fund that could provide $125,000 annually for the next decade to get the replacement housing for the development, now known officially as the Macario Gonzalez Community Neighborhood.

Duran also took the opportunity to defend himself against allegations made by his former employee, Mathew O’Grady.

In October, O’Grady accused Duran of trying to “torpedo” the Las Vegas housing authority because Duran believes local politicians are inherently corrupt. He also said his boss unfairly placed the authority on troubled status out of spite against a former local housing director.

Duran said the allegations were false and that he is dealing with a personnel matter in connection with O’Grady. He said O’Grady’s statements disrupted HUD’s effort to help the local authority.

“We are fully committed to providing low-income housing,” Duran said, noting that Las Vegas is his hometown.

After the allegations surfaced last fall, some city officials, including Mayor Tony Marquez, said they no longer wanted Duran to speak before the council. They tried to get a higher-up to visit.

Last week, however, Marquez, Pacheco and Housing Administrator Lori Gonzales visited with Duran in Albuquerque.

“The past is the past,” the mayor said during the council meeting. “We have to address the issues and work together. We had a very constructive meeting.”

Councilman Morris Madrid said he appreciated Duran’s comments. He said he would only request that HUD give the local authority more attention — in the form of either scrutiny or assistance.

Duran said his office oversees 43 housing authorities in New Mexico and that there are only four other employees besides himself. But he said his office has regular conference calls and quarterly meetings with housing officials.

Marquez told the council that Pacheco would provide a plan of action for the authority within 30 to 45 days.