HUD Secretary Owns Stake in AHA Leading HOPE VI Developer
(APN) ATLANTA — In an apparent conflict of interest, Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Alphonso Jackson, owns a stake in Atlanta-based company Columbia Residential, which landed major HOPE VI redevelopment grants with the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA), according to an article, “Questionable Contracts,” published in the National Journal magazine on October 04, 2007. National Journal is a Washington, DC, based magazine for policy professionals.
“The Secretary still has financial ties to one housing developer. According to Jackson’s financial disclosure reports, an Atlanta-based development company, Columbia Residential, owes him $250,000 to $500,000. Before joining HUD, his spokesman said, Jackson was a ‘partner/consultant’ for the developer,” the National Journal reported.
Columbia Residential has been intimately involved in redeveloping two of AHA’s HOPE VI projects, McDaniel Glen and Perry Homes, according to documents obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.
The former Perry Homes complex is now the West Highlands, with current or planned developments called Columbia Estates, Colubmia Heritage, Columbia Park Citi, Columbia Crest, and Columbia Grove.
AHA received $25.1 million from HUD to fund the West Highlands project.
HUD Secretary Jackson stood with Noel F. Khalil, President of Columbia Residential, when he praised the West Highlands in a 2004 article in The Story newspaper, and that day announced an additional $20 million in federal funding to AHA for McDaniel Glen, also a redevelopment site for Columbia Residential.
Columbia Residential, LLC, is a registered Georgia LLC, with several affiliated Georgia entities, organized on March 24, 2000, and the registered agent is Khalil, according to the corporations database of the Secretary of State of Georgia.
“According to his disclosure reports, Jackson is to receive periodic payments ‘for past services’ under a separation agreement with the company. He has received only one such payment in the past six years — $35,000 in 2003. HUD officials said that Jackson avoids any dealings with Columbia Residential. They released a memo he wrote in August 2001 in which he recused himself from HUD matters having ‘a direct and predictable effect on the ability or willingness’ of the company ‘to satisfy its obligation to compensate me for prior service rendered.'” the National Journal wrote.
“Columbia Residential recently was part of a team that won a $127 million competitive contract from HANO [Housing Authority of New Orleans] to redevelop the St. Bernard public housing project, which has been shuttered since Katrina. In his written responses, HUD spokesman Brown said that Jackson was not part of the selection team and played no ‘role in the selection of any team members.’ The four-member selection panel included Scott Keller, who was until recently Jackson’s deputy chief of staff and who is often described within HUD as Jackson’s ‘right-hand man.’ But in an interview, Keller said that because of the press of other HUD business he did not participate in, or influence, the selection of the Columbia Residential team. Keller left HUD in August to become a private consultant,” the National Journal wrote.
The revelations about Jackson’s stake in Columbia Residential were somewhat buried within the lengthy National Journal article, which focuses on an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the HUD Inspector General’s Office, of Jackson, for apparently steering a contract with HANO to a golf buddy of his, William Hairston.
An Associated Press (AP) report was widely circulated about the issue of Mr. Hairston after the National Journal article was published, but did not mention the Secretary’s stake in Columbia Residential.
The AP also recalled another recent scandal involving Jackson and HUD contracts.
“Last year, Jackson became a focus of controversy after telling a Dallas business group that he had rejected a HUD contract because the prospective contractor criticized Bush. Jackson apologized, said he made up the story, and declared that [HUD] contracts were never awarded or rejected because of political favoritism,” the AP reports.
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Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at email@example.com
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