Widen Pierce Inquiry, Panel Urges Prosecutor

From Associated Press

A House panel on Tuesday urged a special prosecutor to widen the investigation of former HUD Secretary Samuel R. Pierce Jr., saying it had evidence that Pierce steered federal grants to his former law firm.

In their most detailed finding, congressional investigators questioned whether Pierce's former law firm, a former top aide and Pierce himself may have violated federal bribery, conspiracy and conflict-of-interest laws during his tenure as secretary of housing and urban development.

The panel said evidence suggested also that Pierce, who served throughout the eight-year Ronald Reagan Administration, may have committed perjury at a panel hearing when he denied involvement in the awarding of key grants.

"It is obvious that Secretary Pierce did not give us the full story," the panel wrote. "However, some of his statements stand out in that they are inconsistent and at odds with the sworn testimony of other witnesses."

Pierce testified in the early stages of the investigation, then invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to submit to additional questioning.

In urging independent counsel Arlin Adams to substantially expand his investigation, the House Government Operations subcommittee said its 14-month investigation uncovered "widespread abuses, influence peddling, blatant favoritism, monumental waste and gross mismanagement" at HUD during Pierce's tenure.

Its findings were offered in a letter signed by all eight subcommittee members--three Republicans and five Democrats, including Chairman Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo).

Pierce's lawyer, Paul L. Perito, said there was "nothing new, different or worthy of attention" in the letter. He said it was "improper and inappropriate" for the committee to direct a letter to the prosecutor rather than the Justice Department.

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