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HUD chief resigns amid ethics investigations

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson resigned Monday, amid multiple ethics investigations and criticism from top lawmakers.

Jackson said he will step down on April 18. He did not mention the allegations in his brief statement Monday, saying only that he wanted to attend to personal and family matters.

The resignation came after criticism from members of Congress that Jackson has refused to respond adequately to allegations of impropriety.

No names have been floated as candidates to replace Jackson, a long-time friend of President Bush from their days in Texas.

One possibility would be to promote from within the department, given the short time remaining in the president’s term and the hostility he faces from the Democratic-controlled Senate, which must confirm Jackson’s replacement.

Speaking to reporters at HUD headquarters in Washington, Jackson said he had devoted his career to improving housing opportunities.

As the son of a lead smelter and nurse midwife, and the last of 12 children, never did I imagine I would serve America in such a way, Jackson said about his Cabinet post. I am truly grateful for the opportunity.

We have helped families keep their homes, we have transformed public housing, we have reduced chronic homelessness, and we have preserved affordable housing and increased minority homeownership, he said.

A Jackson adviser told CNN earlier that the secretary has been privately talking about resigning since late last year because he’s grown weary over multiple ethics investigations that have sparked allegations that he cannot focus full time on the nation’s housing crisis.

Earlier this month, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, demanded Jackson’s resignation, saying the ethics allegations have distracted from the secretary’s ability to handle the nation’s housing crisis. The secretary has recently been accused in a lawsuit of retaliating against housing officials in Philadelphia for blocking a land deal with one of Jackson’s friends.

The FBI has been investigating allegations that Jackson steered a federal contract to a golfing buddy based in South Carolina. Jackson has denied wrongdoing and White House officials have said for months that the president still has confidence in Jackson. No charges have been filed against him.

Jackson has been a key player in the Bush administration’s efforts to handle the national housing and mortgage crisis.

Jackson, who ran Dallas’ housing authority for seven years and then led a Texas power company, was confirmed by the Senate for the top HUD post exactly four years ago. He also was head of the Federal Housing Administration.

The resignation announcement came 10 days after the two senators called for him to quit.

Secretary Jackson has repeatedly demonstrated that he is not in the position to provide the type of leadership that is necessary during these trying and difficult times, Dodd said in the statement. Dodd is chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Murray is chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel responded to the senators then by saying that President Bush continues to have confidence in Secretary Jackson. Our focus should be on helping responsible homeowners stay in their homes and overcome through this downturn in the housing market.

Dodd said an inspector-general’s report recently stated that Jackson had advised staffers to take political affiliation into account in awarding contacts, and serious allegations about his impropriety are under investigation in three cases, although Dodd did not name them.

The lawmakers said that at a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Jackson refused to answer several committee members’ questions, and later did not respond adequately to a follow-up letter from Dodd asking for information on the various allegations of impropriety he is facing.

My subcommittee funds every dollar that is spent at HUD, Murray said in the statement. We have an obligation to the taxpayer to see to it that those dollars are administered without corruption and favoritism. But we can’t do our job if Secretary Jackson refuses to do his.

This is a cabinet secretary who has consistently ducked accountability, and arrogantly refused to heed the public’s calls for answers. Secretary Jackson should resign immediately and seek to clear his name as a private citizen.
HUD chief resigns amid ethics investigations – found here.

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March 31, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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