Low-Income Residents Denied Control

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LAREDO, TX - The Laredo Housing Authority filed a lawsuit Monday against the Metro Affordable Housing Corp., an entity it created in 1993, alleging the corporation illegally stripped low-income housing residents of their control of the Metro's board of directors. Metro was created as a nonprofit organization intended to capitalize on private investments to construct affordable housing projects and strike deals enabling low-income individuals to purchase or rent a home. Governed by the tax code, the LHA is not able to work with private investors to build housing projects, which is why it chose to form the Metro.

The lawsuit was filed against the Metro and directors on the corporation's board: Consuelo Montalvo, Peter Lizcano, Larry Dovalina and Guadalupe Guajardo. Guajardo said he was asked to serve on the board but declined. He is unaware of any happenings within the Metro corporation. Multiple calls to Montalvo's home were not answered. Plaintiffs LHA and affordable housing resident San Juanita Villarreal are seeking a judgment to reinstate the original Metro bylaws and articles of incorporation, which establish the intent and makeup of the corporation's board of directors.

If the housing authority's claim is not granted, the lawsuit states, "harm is imminent because improprieties in (Metro's) conduct places LHA at risk of losing funding for its mission to provide public and affordable housing." The lawsuit also alleges that damages of Metro's actions "are incalculable" and the housing authority is also seeking access to Metro's accounting transactions.

Dovalina said the lawsuit is a move by the housing authority Board of Commissioners to "control the (Metro) board and have it under their thumb." According to court documents, the Metro amended in 2007 the articles of incorporation that established the nonprofit group, a move that the housing authority claims violates the purpose of the corporation.

"The problem started in September 2007 when some rogue people in the management of the Metro … basically had a meeting under cover of darkness and elected a new slate of directors and this new slate of directors amended the bylaws," said John Judge, an Austin attorney representing the housing authority. Metro's attorney, Timothy J. Daniels of San Antonio, is out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Dovalina said when he joined the board in 2007, the changes had already been made. Even so, he said, amendments to the bylaws or articles of incorporation do not change the inner workings of the corporation. "Metro is basically a nonprofit corporation that is … to use as a vehicle to promote and provide more housing outside of the realm of the Laredo Housing Authority," Dovalina said. "So having a different board does not change the intent or purpose of that housing corporation."

Asked about the purpose of changing the makeup of the Metro board, Lizcano, who was listed on the amended articles as a director at the time, said he was not involved in the decision to make the amendments. "When I came in, everything was set," Lizcano said.

According to an exhibit the housing authority filed with the lawsuit, Lizcano on Aug. 18, 2007, signed the amendments to Metro's articles of incorporation that changed the makeup of the board of directors. Lizcano was listed as the acting secretary of the Metro board. At the time, Lizcano, Montalvo and Martha Castro were the only members of the board, according to the amended articles. In a phone interview, Lizcano said he had to be in a meeting when asked about not being involved in the changes but signing the amended articles. Calls made later in the day seeking comment were not returned.

When Metro was originally formed, Judge said, the housing authority intended for housing project
Source: LMTonline.com

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