Decision due on probe of payoffs by HUD chief

January 12, 1995|By Fort Worth Star-Telegram

WASHINGTON -- Housing Secretary Henry G. Cisneros, under investigation by the Justice Department about payments to a former lover, learns today whether Attorney General Janet Reno will seek appointment of an independent counsel.

Under a federal law providing for outside investigation of alleged wrongdoing by government officials, Ms. Reno could ask a judicial panel for an independent counsel to investigate Mr. Cisneros or seek a 60-day extension to determine whether further inquiry is warranted.

Justice Department officials would not comment on the matter.

But John Preyer, legislative director for Sen. Lauch Faircloth, a North Carolina Republican who has been a critic of Mr. Cisneros, said, "The indications are that they are not going to ask for an extension and they are not going to seek an independent counsel."

Mr. Cisneros, a former San Antonio mayor, is accused of withholding information from the FBI about $200,000 in payments to his former lover, Linda Medlar, when the agency was investigating him for appointment as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Ms. Medlar, who lives in Lubbock, is suing Mr. Cisneros for stopping payments she said he promised her. She helped instigate the Justice Department investigation by releasing telephone tapes she secretly made of conversations with Mr. Cisneros to a tabloid television program.

In a paid appearance on "Inside Edition," Ms. Medlar accused Mr. Cisneros of lying to the FBI about the amount of the payments.

The Justice Department began its inquiry after the broadcast in September. A month later, Justice department officials decided that a 90-day preliminary investigation was warranted. That period ends today.

But Mr. Faircloth, the new chairman of a Senate Banking Committee subcommittee that oversees HUD, plans his own investigation.

"Senator Faircloth is committed to holding hearings to determine whether or not Secretary Cisneros provided false or misleading information to Congress," Mr. Preyer said.

In another development involving HUD, independent counsel Arlin Adams announced that he would not prosecute former HUD Secretary Samuel R. Pierce Jr. for his role in an influence-peddling scandal in the department in the 1980s.

In deciding not to prosecute, Mr. Adams cited Mr. Pierce's acceptance of responsibility and "the conflicting evidence regarding the intent with which he acted and the absence of any evidence that he or his family profited from his actions at HUD."

In a statement, Mr. Pierce took the blame for not supervising aides who bilked agency programs and gave special treatment to cronies.

Mr. Adams was appointed in 1990 specifically to investigate the HUD scandal and would not be called on to investigate the current housing secretary.

The independent counsel's investigation has resulted in 16 convictions, including that of Fort Worth developer Leonard Briscoe, found guilty of making payments and giving gifts to a former HUD official.

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