HUD chief orders recall of unshaven mug shots

June 10, 1993|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

First there was the $200 haircut. Now there's the $2,200 fiv o'clock shadow.

Lamenting a stubble and a "just-woken-up" expression, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry G. Cisneros ordered his official portrait removed from 220 HUD offices from Baltimore to Honolulu last month.

The 8-by-10 color photograph depicts Mr. Cisneros in a bureaucrat's navy blue suit in front of the American flag, but a dull facial expression sparked an order to yank the mug shot from the walls of HUD field and administrative offices where he shared the spotlight with a smiling President Clinton.

"This is absolutely not a vanity thing," Mr. Cisneros said yesterday, though he complained the picture "looked like I had just woken up five minutes earlier and had a 5 o'clock shadow."

Cisneros, the 45-year-old former mayor of San Antonio, has long been known for his matinee idol looks and charisma. After leaving office in 1989, the fact that he changed his hairstyle was big news in San Antonio.

There were 544 copies of the unflattering portrait made, costing the taxpayers $2,200.

Mr. Cisneros said he posed for the picture "at the end of a long day" after he took office this winter but didn't see it until a recent visit to the New York field office.

When he returned to Washington, the secretary complained about his image, which prompted a terse department memorandum to immediately recall the photograph from HUD's 71 field offices and 10 regional offices. About 150 copies have been returned, and a HUD spokeswoman said they will be recycled for autographs and appearances.

Mr. Cisneros said he never wanted to follow the traditional practice of putting photo portraits of Cabinet secretaries on the walls of field offices. Yesterday he adamantly refused to replace the portraits, even though the memorandum promised that a new portrait would be sent.

"I have no intention of having my mug in all field offices," he said. "It looks self-serving, and it struck me wrong. I thought I was doing the right thing by a new government -- it is an old practice. . . ."

Yet Rick Davis, chief of HUD's visual arts department, which took the portrait, said Mr. Cisneros was scheduled for another sitting June 30.

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