OCTOBER 05, 2007
A Bush cabinet member recently investigated by the agency he heads for illegally granting contracts based on political affiliation is now under FBI investigation for getting a friend a lucrative no-bid government deal.
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson evidently helped a friend get $392,000 over a period of a year and a half as a construction manager in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
The contractor, William Hairston of Hilton Head Island South Carolina, is a longtime friend and golfing buddy of the housing secretary and his company (Hairston Construction) got the sweet government contract without having to bid for it competitively as required by federal law.
Earlier this year HUDâ??s inspector general launched a probe into whether Jackson urged his staff to consider contractorsâ?? political leanings when awarding agency contracts. The housing secretary subsequently gave Congressional testimony denying that he steered deals to friends and administration supporters.
A former president of the Dallas Housing Authority, Jackson also drew attention during a public speech in 2006 for saying he had canceled a federal contract after the companyâ??s president told him he did not like George W. Bush.
HUD has been plagued by scandal before. In 1999 Bill Clintonâ??s housing secretary, Henry Cisneros, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about payments to his former mistress. An influence-peddling scandal under Ronald Reagan led to the conviction of 16 people, including top aides to then HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce.
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