Boyz N the Hud

Article excerpt

In government oversight circles, Susan Gaffney is a highly regarded official. She is President Clinton's 1993 appointee as inspector general at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In an agency long synonymous with "waste, fraud, and abuse," Gaffney has spent her tenure cracking down on questionable grants, sweetheart deals, and widespread contracting abuses.

But now she's come up against a force she just can't crack: her own boss, HUD Secretary.Andrew Cuomo. Their contentious relationship has poisoned the air at HUD for over two years.

Bad blood between the secretary and his IG began in 1995 when Gaffney questioned grant awards in a pet program of then-Assistant Secratary, Cuomo. After he became secretary in 1997, tensions grew. In an early 1998 report to Congress.. Gaffney criticized some of Cuomo's ballyhooed reforms; the secretary countered with two "independent" reports he'd commissioned. The day Gaffney's next report went public, HUD put out an agitprop release undercutting it.

Cuomo's feud with his own ethics watchdog burst into the open last September when Gaffney, speaking before Fred Thompson's Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, reported orchestrated and "escalating" attacks on her office by Cuomo and his "key aides," including cooked up charges of racism, insubordination, and malfeasance, and general dirty-dealing. "The secretary repeatedly assured me that he had nothing to do with these actions," Gaffney testified. "He explained to me that his key aides saw me as `the embodiment of evil,' and there was nothing he could do about it." She suggested he fire them; Cuomo didn't respond. But what really nettled the committee was Gaffney's latest clash with Cuomo over a discrimination complaint lodged against her.

In December 1997, Philip Newsome, a black senior official in the IG's office, was passed over for promotion. Two months later Newsome filed a complaint with the department's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office, which began a routine inquiry and hired an outside investigator. But when wind of the complaint reached HUD's tenth floor, Newsome found some unexpected support from "key aides" to Cuomo, notably Deputy General Counsel Howard Glaser.

Glaser put a stop order on the original investigation, hiring instead two lawyers to look into the charges. His choices raised eyebrows in the IG's office: former civil rights czar Deval Patrick, and former Gore counsel Kumiki Gibson. Patrick had been roundly criticized as an overzealous advocate of affirmative action during his Justice tenure. He's since joined the lucrative field of civil-rights shakedown artists pioneered by Jesse Jackson. It seemed a foregone conclusion what he would find. Cuomo-through Glaser-also empowered these lawyers to investigate larger issues of alleged bias in the IG's office.

Gaffney had a hunch she was being railroaded. On September 1, 1998, she wrote to the Equal Employment Opportunity, Commission asking that the supervisory agency take over the investigation. "She was concerned that the internal review by HUD's EEO was going to be a monkey court," said a Hill source. (The EEOC said it couldn't take control unless Cuomo, who has complete discretion over the investigation stage of HUD discrimination complaints, authorized the transfer. …