CALISTOGA — Newly appointed City Councilmember Irais Lopez was cited by state regulators on Tuesday for running an unlicensed residential care facility for senior citizens.
An inspector from the California Department of Social Services visited her home and business, at 2315 Foothill Blvd., after inquiries from The Weekly Calistogan and at least one member of the public about her status.
Department spokesman Michael Weston said the inspector ordered her to either close the business or apply for a license. Lopez applied for the license Wednesday.
Lopez was appointed on Feb. 5 to a seat left vacant by the resignation of Councilmember Carl Sherrill in December. On her application and in remarks before the council, Lopez said she had a license application pending before the state.
“I am in the process of obtaining a license for a residential care facility for the elderly,” she wrote on her application, “which will serve the senior population in our town.”
Weston said the department has no record of either a license or a pending application for the property. Lopez does have a current “administrator certificate” that allows her to manage an existing facility, he said, but that does not substitute for licensing of the facility itself.
Lopez declined to comment Thursday
“I cannot give you any information about it,” she said when contacted Thursday by phone on her status or on what she told the council. “I am still waiting to get a letter” from the state.
The letter, a “Notice of Operation in Violation of the Law,” was issued on Wednesday. The department provided a copy to The Weekly Calistogan.
Weston said the inspector was clear with Lopez on Tuesday that she was operating without the license required by state law.
Lopez has two elderly residents living in her home, Weston said. They will be permitted to remain while the license application is pending, though they will have to leave should the application be rejected.
Weston said Lopez will not face disciplinary action for having previously run an unlicensed facility. The department prefers to educate care providers on the law and bring them into compliance rather than punish them, he said.
The application process will require her to provide detailed plans for her business, including staff schedules and training, use of specialized equipment, and the storage and dispensing of medication, he said.
Inspectors will make follow-up visits to make sure her home complies with the law and that she is following her stated plans.
Mayor Chris Canning, who supported her nomination, said he was unaware that Lopez did not have a license or pending application. He said he was operating under her assurance that she did.
“This is a matter between Ms. Lopez and the state of California for them to work through, reconcile and resolve,” Canning said.
He said he would be discussing the issue with Lopez.
“At this point there is no evidence to suggest that her service on the council should be or would be impacted,” he said. “She was appointed based on the information we had at the time.”
He declined to say whether her unlicensed status would have changed his position during last week’s council meeting.
The only council member to vote against Lopez, Jim Barnes, said he “had no idea” about her licensing status at the time of the vote. Barnes had nominated former City Council candidate Charlotte Williams for the vacancy, a nomination that died on a 2-2 tie before the vote on Lopez.
“It wasn’t a vote against Irais,” he said, “It was a vote for the position I had taken before.”
City Manager Richard Spitler said Lopez told him about the state inspection Wednesday.
“I encouraged her to get in compliance with the state and she said she would,” he said.