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Ousted Housing Director Files Claim Against Agency

February 18, 1988|LEONARD BERNSTEIN | Times Staff Writer

Ben Montijo, who was ousted as executive director of the San Diego Housing Commission nearly a year ago, Wednesday filed a claim against the agency accusing commissioners of breach of contract and violation of due process in the decision not to renew his contract.

Acting Executive Director Elizabeth Morris, who was served with the legal papers Wednesday afternoon, said that Montijo is seeking unspecified monetary damages from both the Housing Commission and the San Diego Housing Authority.

The Housing Commission carries out the day-to-day activities of running the city's public housing stock. The Housing Authority, which is made up of the nine San Diego City Council members, has ultimate authority over Housing Commission policy.

Montijo's claim appears to be a prelude to the lawsuit that he has promised to file. Morris said that in order to sue the Housing Commission, Montijo must first file a claim against the agency and have that claim rejected.

Housing Commission Chairman Ron Roberts, who was not a commissioner when the council decided not to renew Montijo's contract Feb. 28, 1987, predicted that the commission would reject the claim.

"I don't know of any reason, based on the things that I've seen, that we would feel that Mr. Montijo is entitled to any damages," Roberts said. "I haven't seen anything that would justify his action."

Montijo was ousted after The Times reported that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had initiated an investigation into how Montijo and his staff handled the renovation of a 122-unit apartment complex in Southeast San Diego under a federal program. The report on that investigation has not yet been released.

An internal investigation by the Housing Commission found that the agency committed a number of irregularities and gave "extraordinary assistance" to the developers in the project.

In September, Montijo accepted a post as executive director of the housing authority in Kansas City.

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