WASHINGTON – Embattled Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced his resignation Monday, leaving the Bush administration without a top housing official in the midst of a vast mortgage crisis that has shaken the global economy.
Jackson, a longtime friend of President Bush since they lived in the same Dallas neighborhood, departed after the White House concluded he had too many controversies swirling around him to be an effective Cabinet member, several HUD officials said privately.
Jackson has been the target of accusations of favoritism involving HUD contractors for two years and is under investigation by the FBI and Justice Department for allegations that he steered business to friends.
Several Democratic lawmakers demanded Jackson’s resignation last month after he refused to answer questions about the accusations, including a lawsuit filed by the Philadelphia Housing Authority against HUD that alleged that Jackson and his aides used the department to punish the authority for refusing to transfer valuable property to one of Jackson’s friends.
“There are times when one must attend more diligently to personal and family matters,” Jackson said in a prepared statement that he read at a news conference Monday morning.
Jackson said his resignation will be effective April 18. He took no questions and made no mention of the criminal probes or other allegations. Bush, who departed Monday on a trip to Eastern Europe for his final NATO summit, issued a written statement calling Jackson “a good man” and “a great American success story.” Bush said he accepted the resignation “with regret.”
Senate Banking Committee chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., endorsed Jackson’s departure, saying he could not provide leadership on crucial housing issues “while under the cloud of various investigations into alleged impropriety.”
Dodd and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., wrote to Bush last month that Jackson’s refusal to answer lawmakers’ questions about the Philadelphia lawsuit made him unable to lead the agency. A White House spokesman said then that Bush had confidence in Jackson.
But two government sources who work on housing issues said Jackson was called on March 24 to the White House, where top aides discussed his ability to continue to lead the agency. The sources requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. Jackson met with Bush on Saturday morning to discuss his plans to resign, according to White House spokesman Tony Fratto.
Jackson is one of only a few remaining senior administration officials who followed Bush to Washington from Texas in 2001. Other close Texas friends who have left in Bush’s second term include former senior advisers Dan Bartlett, Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, and former attorney general Alberto Gonzales.