HUD inspector general files complaint against Cuomo

Department of Housing and Urban Development Inspector General Susan Gaffney has filed a sexual discrimination complaint against Secretary Andrew Cuomo and other HUD officials, claiming that she has been subjected to a hostile work environment at the agency for the last three years.

In an Oct. 13 memorandum addressed to Deputy Secretary Saul N. Ramirez Jr., Gaffney accused Cuomo, Ramirez and other top HUD officials of harassing her and discriminating against her on the basis of gender.

Gaffney alleged that Cuomo called her frequently to discourage her from publicly criticizing certain HUD programs and that senior officials repeatedly leaked disparaging information about her to the press, interfering with the activities of the Office of Inspector General, and attempting to get her to resign.

A HUD official denied all of Gaffney's allegations and said it was "absolutely false" that officials were trying to get Gaffney to resign.

The memo also serves as Gaffney's official discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the complaint, Gaffney asked for written apologies from Cuomo, Ramirez and their subordinates.

This incident is the latest in a series of disputes between Gaffney and Cuomo. Last year, top HUD officials claimed Gaffney's criticism of the department's Community Builders program was intended to support looming GOP budget cuts. In 1998, during a Senate Governmental Affairs hearing, Gaffney accused Cuomo of "harassing and undermining" her-allegations which HUD officials denied.

In April of this year, Gaffney asked the General Accounting Office's Comptroller General to look into illegal lobbying on the part of Cuomo's office. The Comptroller General found those allegations unwarranted.

HUD spokeswoman Lisa MacSpadden questioned the timing of Gaffney's complaint. In September, top officials in the agency's inspector general's office came under fire for allegedly downloading pornographic material from government computers. An outside investigation by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE) was conducted, and disciplinary action was taken against the staff members in question.

Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., a member of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans' Affairs and International Relations, asked Cuomo in a Sept. 7 letter to look into the IG's office conduct throughout the investigation and make sure the office handled it properly.

Gaffney did not inform Cuomo or Ramirez of the investigation.

"The IG's complaint is a result of our efforts to respond to a directive from Rep. Tom Lantos demanding an investigation into the downloading and circulation of pornography by senior officials in the IG's office. The IG had previously threatened to retaliate if we investigated her staff's use of pornography," said MacSpadden in a statement.

A HUD source familiar with the situation said the IG's office handled the matter professionally, and was under no obligation to inform Cuomo or other officials about the investigation by the PCIE.

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