At HUD, Silence is Golden

May 19, 2008 4:40 p.m.

We’ve documented Alphonso Jackson’s tenure at HUD pretty thoroughly here: the cronyism, the politicization, the stonewalling of congressional investigators.

But let’s not forget retaliation as a tool to further those ends.

Today the Washington Post reports on three minority HUD contractors who in very short spans went from few, if any, HUD contracts to many millions of dollar’s worth. The common denominator for all three firms was that they were well-connected in GOP circles or with HUD officials.

Now that may be a scandal in itself, but so is what happened to the career HUD staffers who raised questions.

The contract specialist who flagged concerns about one of the companies was asked to return to her previous job within HUD, the Post reports. “At that point, the top procurement people — Jo Baylor and Annette Hancock — decided my services would no longer be needed because I was a pain in their neck,” said Gloria Freeman, the specialist, who has since retired.

Another contracting specialist, also since retired, was reassigned to a different HUD job within weeks of finding that one of the companies had submitted an exaggerated claim under the contract and instead owed HUD money.

The Post doesn’t link these three contractors directly to Jackson; rather, their rapid rise despite performance issues is symptomatic of HUD during the Jackson era. This isn’t the first time retaliation has been alleged. The Philadelphia public housing director is suing for retaliation, alleging that his refusal to help out a Jackson buddy led HUD to take enforcement action against the housing authority as punishment. Emails previously published by the Washington Post suggest a warped management climate within HUD, with one HUD official asking another, “Would you like me to make his life less happy? If so, how?”

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