The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on the issue of lobbying improprieties by HUD staff on February 26. Subcommittee Chair Patrick McHenry (R-NC) had requested that the HUD Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigate an email sent by then-HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones that called for opposition to a bill under consideration by Congress. The hearing was entitled "Inspector General Report: Allegations of Improper Lobbying and Obstruction at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.” HUD Inspector General David Montoya was the sole witness.
Mr. Montoya testified that his office investigated the actions taken by the Deputy Secretary and other HUD employees who were involved in the preparation and distribution of the email in question. The IG found that the HUD employees under investigation had violated an internal HUD policy regarding lobbying, but Mr. Montoya said that there was nothing in his findings that warranted a criminal investigation.
Mr. Montoya said that the “department should have more fully scrutinized the decision to send the email and the people the email was sent to.” According to Mr. Montoya, the email was sent to a list that included 46 HUD employees and recipients of federal funding. One of the recipients was a public housing agency that was recently the subject of a HUD OIG investigation regarding use of federal funds to lobby.
Mr. Montoya indicated there may have been a broader lobbying effort involving HUD, but that the Deputy Secretary was not aware of it. He also said that this effort was an “isolated case, an aberration” for HUD employees and that steps were taken “essentially [by] one person who decided to act on [his] own.” When asked by Representative Joyce Beatty (D-OH) whether there was a culture of lobbying at HUD, Mr. Montoya said, “No, I don’t believe there is a culture… most of the HUD employees I’ve met, if not all, are very well intentioned, very dedicated, very ethical.”
Mr. Montoya identified one person as the primary coordinator of the email. The same person also took steps that constituted interference in the OIG investigation.
Mr. Montoya said that HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan was not aware of the email and was not pleased when he learned of it. Mr. McHenry asked if HUD had taken disciplinary action and Mr. Montoya indicated that he believed HUD is waiting for a GAO report, which could call for a civil penalty such as requiring payment related to the expense of the HUD activities in question.
View the OIG report: http://1.usa.gov/1hG8GUF