HUD Secretary Jackson Steps Down amid Probe
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The secretary of Housing and Urban Development resigned today. Alphonso Jackson is under a criminal investigation under charges of the cronyism, and senior Democratic senators have been urging President Bush to ask him to step down.
NPR's Libby Lewis reports.
LIBBY LEWIS: Jackson announced his departure to colleagues and reporters Monday morning at HUD headquarters.
Secretary ALPHONSO JACKSON (U.S. Housing and Urban Development; Republican, Texas): There come a time when one must attend diligently to personal and family matters. Now is such a time for me.
LEWIS: Bush appointed Jackson as Housing chief in 2004. He is a native of Texas whose friendship with Bush goes back years. He was the third African-American to be named to Bush's Cabinet.
Sec. JACKSON: I have devoted more than 30 years of my life to improve housing opportunities for all Americans regardless of income, skin color or spoken accent.
LEWIS: Jackson is under investigation by the Justice Department, the FBI and a federal grand jury over his role in awarding HUD contracts. And the Philadelphia Housing Authority has sued Jackson, alleging he punished the agency for not selling some valuable property to a business friend of his. Jackson has refused to answer questions senators have asked him about those allegations.
Last week, Senators Christopher Dodd and Patty Murray wrote President Bush to ask for Jackson to step down in light of his refusal to talk to Congress about the accusations.
From his cell phone at the airport, Dodd told NPR that Jackson's resignation was best for the country.
Senator CHRISTOPHER DODD (Democrat, Connecticut): Only because we're in the middle of the most serious economic crisis in our country in decades, and the center of that problem is housing, and the center of the housing problem is the foreclosure crisis. And when you've got a cloud hanging over the secretary of the house - urban affairs office here, as we do in this case, then it makes it difficult.
LEWIS: Dodd is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. He said there's too much to deal with already to resolve that crisis.
Sen. DODD: I don't think having Alphonso Jackson in that job, day after day, week after week, given the cloud that hangs over the office is really there - wouldn't have been healthy for us.
LEWIS: President Bush, who left today for a trip to eastern Europe, issued a statement saying he accepted Jackson's resignation with regret. I have known Alphonso Jackson for many years, and I have known him to be a strong leader and a good man. Jackson steps down April 18th.
Libby Lewis, NPR News, Washington.
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