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HUD chief gets a grilling

The man who leads the agency that's not made a lot of friends in Miami - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson - came in for a grilling before Democratic senators who, according to the New York Times, warned "that accusations of wrongdoing threatened to undermine his leadership.

The newspaper says the Justice Department and the housing department’s inspector general are investigating whether Jackson "improperly steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in government contracts to friends in New Orleans and the Virgin Islands.

"Jackson, appearing before the Senate banking committee, said he could not discuss the e-mail messages because they were linked to a lawsuit filed against HUD.."

Sen. Mel Martinez and fellow Republican Wayne Allard of Colorado, said they understood Jackson’s reluctance to discuss the matter.

"Mr. Martinez, a former HUD secretary who brought Mr. Jackson to the department as his deputy, described his successor as a diligent and honest man caught between his desire to respect the judge and the senators.

"You’re in an untenable position here," Mr. Martinez said. "I know you’re a good man, and I know you’re trying hard to do a good job."