HUD Testimony by Pierce, Dean Conflicts, Lawmakers Say
RICHARD L. VERNACI
Aug. 01, 1989
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A former top housing official apparently lied in telling Congress two years ago that she deferred all funding decisions to her boss, former Housing Secretary Samuel Pierce, say congressional investigators.
''Well, somebody's not telling the truth,'' said Rep. Charles Schumer, D- N.Y., who brought up testimony given in 1987 by Deborah Gore Dean, former executive assistant to Pierce at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Schumer suggested Monday that Ms. Dean, who is refusing to testify in Congress' investigation of the HUD scandal, lied under oath in 1987.
Ms. Dean's lawyer, Joseph diGenova, issued a statement saying, ''Any suggestion that Miss Dean committed perjury is legally and factually wrong.''
Pierce has told a House subcommittee investigating allegations of corruption and influence-peddling at HUD that he took no part in funding decisions at the agency. He headed HUD during the eight years of the Reagan administration.
''I did not have hands-on,'' Pierce testified in May before the House Government Operations subcommittee on housing and employment. He said the decisions were made by subordinates and he would rubber-stamp them.
But Ms. Dean said Pierce was calling the shots, in testimony under oath two years ago at a Senate hearing considering her nomination to be an assistant housing secretary.
''All funding decisions are made by the secretary,'' she testified. ''We do recommend to him areas of concern. Many times we are overruled.'' Ms. Dean did not win Senate confirmation.
Schumer said the testimony of Ms. Dean and Pierce represented a ''direct, and I would say immutable, contradiction.''
Schumer and Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., chairman of the House panel, referred to Ms. Dean's 1987 testimony in which she also said she had ''never given or approved or pushed or coerced anyone to help any developer.''
''I'm no expert in perjury, but this seems to be a black-and-white case,'' Schumer said.
Ms. Dean, in her appearance before the House panel two months ago, declined to testify, citing her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination .
In August 1987, Ms. Dean told a Senate panel that she did not approve projects on her own.
''Have you ever approved a grant in the secretary's name, using his autopen, or whatever, without formally seeking his approval?'' then-Sen. William Proxmire, D-Wis., had asked Ms. Dean.
''No, sir,'' she replied.
But the House panel has heard from witnesses and reviewed documents that say otherwise.
Documents indicate that numerous letters approving funding for projects had Pierce's signature, applied by a signature machine at Ms. Dean's direction. On routing slips, she would sometimes indicate whether the machine should sign his full name, or just ''Sam.''
Schumer also brought out a 1986 report by the Office of Government Ethics that condemned the way federal ethics laws were enforced at HUD.
''HUD's ethics program is one of the most ill-managed this team has ever seen in a major department,'' the report said.
Schumer introduced the report as John Knapp, former HUD general counsel who oversaw the ethics program, testified a second time before the subcommittee.
Knapp returned to explain why he now denies giving a legal opinion that he earlier testified that he gave while at HUD. That verbal opinion on the applicability of a federal law has been cited by HUD officials as the legal basis that permitted some funding decisions.
Even after hearing him for a second time, members of the panel were still puzzled. ''How did your never-given oral legal opinion gain such wide currency at HUD?'' Lantos asked.
Also testifying Monday before the panel was Maurice Barksdale, a former HUD assistant secretary for housing.
Barksdale told the subcommittee that beginning a year after he left HUD, he worked as a consultant on as many as nine projects over a three-year period. He estimated he was paid a total of $300,000.
By comparison, former Interior Secretary James Watt was paid more than that for his work as a consultant on just one HUD project.
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