FULLERTON — City officials said Wednesday that they will ask David T. Quezada, the suspended director of the Fair Housing Council of Orange County, to pay $1,935 in relocation assistance to a woman who was evicted from one of his apartments.
Quezada is being asked to pay the money because he had evicted the tenant from a rental unit that was built without city permission. The tenant complained to city code enforcement officers this week that Quezada had written her a check for $1,935, but that it was not honored by the bank.
Quezada, 40, who was suspended June 6 from his post as director of the publicly funded Fair Housing Council, said Wednesday that he stopped payment on the check in order to resolve a disagreement over the relocation money.
Quezada sent a letter to the former tenant, Julia Campos Olivos, and the city last week, notifying them of his intention to stop payment and asking the city to step in as an arbitrator in the matter.
"I am absolutely not refusing to pay; that is not my intent," Quezada said. "The only thing the letter brings up is my rights, that David has rights, too."
Quezada's letter to the tenant and the city offers to put any disputed amount into an escrow account while the disagreement is being worked out.
Since Fullerton has no arbitration procedures to handle his request, the city said it plans to send a letter to Quezada this week, asking him to pay the $1,935 within 10 days or file an appeal with City Manager William C. Winter, according to Karen Atkinson, the city's senior code enforcement officer.
Under city law, Atkinson said, Quezada is required to pay relocation assistance to Campos because she was required to move from an illegal duplex housing unit that Quezada owns in the 300 block of East Truslow Avenue. Campos had been living in a third unit that Quezada said he created in the late 1970s by moving interior walls around inside the duplex.
Quezada said he is questioning the application of the city law under which code enforcement officials had asked him to pay relocation assistance. He declined to discuss the case further, saying that publicity surrounding the issue has cast a shadow over his 20-year career in fighting housing discrimination.
"I'd rather not have the media arbitrate us at this point," he said.
Quezada is now under city order to repair the duplex to bring it up to city and state housing codes. Last month, city and county inspectors, acting on a complaint from the tenant, found rotted flooring, broken and stuck windows, and other apparent code violations at the duplex. A check into city records also revealed that the third unit had been built without city approval.
City officials estimate that it will take about $12,500 in repairs to bring the duplex up to housing codes. Quezada has not yet taken out necessary permits to make the repairs, but he has been cooperating with city officials to resolve the problems, Atkinson said.
After the violations were publicized, the Fair Housing Council suspended Quezada from his post as director until the duplex is brought into compliance. The council, a nonprofit agency funded by grants from the county and various cities, helps landlords and tenants resolve disputes and checks into complaints of housing discrimination,
Quezada has said he gave Campos an eviction notice in order to convert the building back into a legal duplex in preparation for taking out a loan against it. The tenant then filed the complaint with the city, he said. Until then, she had never complained of problems at the unit that weren't promptly repaired, he said.
Campos, though, has said that she complained to Quezada several times about problems with the carpet, walls and windows. During the entire five years she lived there, she contends, he never came when she called with a problem except when it was time to collect rent.
Times correspondent Laura Michaelis contributed to this story.