Friday, October 05, 2007

Running Out Of Shoes To Drop

Interior, State, Justice: all three federal departments have been in the news this past couple of weeks, and not in a good way. We can add another one, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to this NY Times story.

The FBI is examining the ties between Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson and a friend who was paid $392,000 by Jackson's department as a construction manager in New Orleans, three federal law enforcement officials said Thursday.

Jackson's friend got the job after the HUD secretary asked a staff member to pass along his name to the Housing Authority of New Orleans, a spokesman for Jackson said in a statement.

At the time, the housing authority was in desperate need of a construction manager because there was a severe shortage of reputable local contractors after Hurricane Katrina, the spokesman for Jackson said.

Mr. Jackson has been in the news before. Last year he spoke to a Dallas business group and bragged that he denied a contractor business because the contractor had criticised the President. When the comment hit the news, Jackson backed down and claimed he had just made up the story to get a laugh. Right.

At any rate, the official story this time is that after the hurricane which wiped out New Orleans, the local housing authority (then in receivership) complained that they couldn't find a decent manager for the rebuilding effort. The HUD Secretary helped out by sending over the name of his golfing buddy.

Hairston Construction was paid $392,000 over a period of a year and a half, according to Brown's statement, and Hairston had been working previously as a subcontractor to the HUD receivers. The New Orleans housing authority was put in receivership after Katrina.

Brown said that during a conversation with Jackson on the status of rebuilding in New Orleans after the storm, a local housing authority official said the agency could find no qualified managers and asked if he had any suggestions.

The work was not competitively bid and Hairston was hired under emergency procurement procedures, ''given the nature of the devastation caused by Katrina,'' Brown said. Hairston was terminated in June because his job was to be put out for bid.
[Emphasis added]

I guess it really does pay to have friends in high places.

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