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Log All HUD Calls, Former Senator Urges

From Associated Press

Top officials in the Department of Housing and Urban Development should have to keep a log of every visitor and telephone call as a means of discouraging influence-peddling that pervaded the agency, a former senator proposed today.

“Some will say that requiring such reports as a matter of law is too burdensome, is an interference with privacy or is micromanaging,” former Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.) told a House panel. “Keep in mind these are public officials. They are on the public payroll. They are dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars of the public’s money.”

Proxmire, who was chairman of a Senate subcommittee with responsibility for overseeing the department, acknowledged today that he was “chagrined that I had no idea what was going on at HUD” until congressional hearings began in recent months.

Witnesses before the House Government Operations subcommittee on housing and employment have said that HUD contracts worth millions of dollars were awarded on the basis of political influence.

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HUD Secretary Jack Kemp, who took office this year with a pledge to clean up the department, has estimated that the corruption has cost the government $2 billion.

Many of the deals now under investigation involved former HUD officials or well-connected Republicans who used their influence at the top levels of the agency to gain approval for projects in which they had some financial interest.

Proxmire said his proposal, requiring reports on such meetings be given to Congress and the news media, would force HUD officials to make an immediate public accounting of their actions in the future.

The subcommittee heard later today from Maurice Barksdale, a former HUD assistant secretary, and John Knapp, former general counsel to the department.

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