Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.
Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to President George W. Bush for his confidence in asking me to be part of his Administration as General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. I am honored to be nominated. I also want to thank Secretary Mel Martinez for asking me to join his team. Secretary Martinez’s life story is compelling and is the embodiment of the American dream. I will proud to be at his side, as he develops and implements his vision for making HUD an agency that will truly serve America consistent with its core basic mission.
Mr. Chairman, I come before this Committee as an individual with previous public and private sector experiences which hopefully have prepared me for the challenges that lie ahead at HUD. From my early days as a federal prosecutor with the United States Attorney’s office in Miami, Florida, at the Department of Justice in Washington in the Office of Policy and Planning, and two terms in the White House Counsel’s Office, as Associate Counsel in the Nixon White House and Deputy Counsel to President Ronald Reagan, I have well understood the value of government service and the need to approach that service with integrity and a sense of commitment. My experience in the private practice of law representing clients before departments and agencies has underscored the importance of integrity and responsiveness in the administration of our laws and programs. With that in mind, and with the Senate’s approval I am committed to assist Secretary Mel Martinez in his efforts to make the Department of Housing and Urban Development a more efficient, effective and responsive institution - one that will operate with the highest ethical and professional standards, - both for its employees and its program participants.
It is my understanding that HUD has been an organization designated as high risk by GAO and often criticized by its own Inspector General. These areas of concern include - but are not limited to - FHA, the integration of financial management systems, consistent application of HUD program requirements and staffing capability. In this regard, let me state clearly that I respect the independence of GAO and the Office of Inspector General and appreciate the valuable, oversight functions that they preform, and if confirmed, I will work to forge a constructive working relationship with both entities.
During his first months in office, Secretary Martinez has already begun the task of assuring that the appropriate use of HUD funds and the appropriate administration of HUD programs is his top priority. He has delivered that message to the Congress in his confirmation hearing, and at subsequent budget hearings. He has delivered that message to HUD staff and perhaps most important he has delivered that message to the recipients of HUD programs. As General Counsel, it would be my intent to help the Secretary put the HUD house in order, and address the priorities of President Bush and Secretary Matrinez, so that HUD will become a truly effective agency, which is capable of providing the housing and community renewal opportunities needed by so many American families and neighborhoods.
Mr. Chairman, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has a wide range of responsibilities. To his credit, the Secretary has made it his priority to focus the agency on the core mission to: expand homeownership opportunities for low and moderate income families; renew distressed areas with decent and safe neighborhoods; enhance affordable housing opportunities for all residents particularly members of disadvantaged minorities; recognize the needs of the growing elderly population and provide incentives to address those concerns and encourage economic vitality while at the same time address the challenges of growth and its impact on the quality of everyday life.
The Office of General Counsel cuts across all of those lines and helps the Department achieve its goals consistent with the laws passed by the Congress and signed by the President. The General Counsel is the Chief legal officer for the agency providing advice on all aspects of Federal housing and urban development laws, regulations and policies. These duties include: drafting legislation, and regulations; representing the Department in affirmative and defensive litigation and serving program clients as program counsel by providing guidance about the statutes and regulations that govern the operations of the Department to assure that the programs are administered as Congress intended and in the best interest of those whom the Department was established to serve.
I would also like to mention one other prior experience that I believe is relevant to my prospective position at HUD. From 1987-1996, I had the privilege of serving as chairman of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation ("PADC"), the federally chartered and funded entity that was charged with the revitalization of Pennsylvania Avenue from the Treasury Department to the Capitol. In that capacity, I had occasion to work with executive branch agencies, the Congress, the D.C. Government, and the development community in a cooperative effort that resulted in new commercial, retail, and residential development along "America’s Main Street". My work with the PADC gave me an appreciation of the complexities of development in the inner city and the benefits that can be achieved when working cooperatively with the Congress, federal and local officials, and the private sector.
With the confidence and support of Secretary Martinez, I expect that as General Counsel, I will be involved in all aspects of HUD and its many program responsibilities. As I have already mentioned in this brief statement, a major focus will be ethics. One of President Bush’s first acts was to meet with his White House staff and clearly articulate his expectations that all who work in his Administration will comply with the highest ethical standards. Secretary Martinez has embraced this mandate for administering HUD programs. It will be my intent, if confirmed as General Counsel, to assure that the standards of conduct are clearly articulated, clearly understood and fairly but firmly enforced by HUD, as they relate to both HUD employees and HUD program participants. That is the only way HUD can administer its programs and assure that the programs are delivered consistent with the responsibility entrusted by the public for the benefit of the people who need them most.
It is an important time for our country and a critical time for the HUD. It is time for HUD address its mission with a sense of urgency, integrity, efficency, and high ethical standards . If reported favorably by this committee and confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of the position for which I have been nominated. Thank you for your consideration.
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