In a surprise move, the Democratically-controlled Senate decided this week not to ignore HUD Sec Alphonso Jackson’s unethical (if not criminal) behavior in punishing Philly’s housing director because he wouldn’t turn a piece of property over to one of Alphonso’s buds. In a move that was anything but a surprise coming from a Bush appointee, Jackson ducked the Senators’ questions.
Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson twice last week declined to directly answer senators’ questions about allegations that he and his agency sought to punish a housing authority for refusing to help one of Jackson’s friends.Senators were focused on a January 2007 e-mail exchange, first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday, in which two of Jackson’s assistant secretaries discussed how they could make the Philadelphia Housing Authority director’s life “less happy” by taking away the authority’s federal funds.In a recent lawsuit against the Department of Housing and Urban Development, authority director Carl R. Greene accused the agency of moving to strip his office of about $50 million based on exaggerated claims that the authority was not providing enough accessible housing. He asserts that it was retaliation for rebuffing Jackson’s earlier demands that Greene give a $2 million vacant authority property to developer Kenny Gamble, a friend of Jackson’s.Jackson, when asked about retaliation accusations by Senate banking committee members Wednesday, said he could not discuss the matter because it is the subject of a lawsuit against his agency. He said a gag order prevented him from commenting.
But when Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he had learned that the judge’s gag order did not prohibit Jackson from answering senators’ questions, Jackson acknowledged Thursday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing that he had learned he could discuss the matter. Reading from a written statement, however, Jackson said he did not have any firsthand information about the e-mails and learned of them the day before they were published. He later sidestepped several questions about any personal role he played in the dispute with the Philadelphia agency.
Does this guy fit right in, or what?