HUD report largely clears Covington unit

Saturday, October 31, 1998

BY GREGORY A. HALL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON -- A city department's federal funds are not in jeopardy, a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) manager said Friday after a week-long review.

Ben Cook, HUD's director of community planning and development in Kentucky, recommended some changes in Covington housing programs as insurance against favoritism for developers.

"He said you can't be too thorough, basically," City Manager Greg Jarvis said.

City officials said his findings differ significantly from an earlier report that said improper record-keeping makes the city "susceptible to claims of favoritism." The investigation was launched in response to complaints from city commission candidate Toni Allender and another resident last year.

Mr. Cook, who orally summarized the results of his inquiry for city officials, said no HUD regulations have been broken and no evidence of favoritism was found. A written report will be made in about a week.

"It's certainly not a surprise to me, since I've known that all along," said Housing Development Director Howard Hodge. Mr. Hodge was accused by the tipsters of using his position to show favoritism to friend and Covington developer Esther Johnson, who received $1.1 million in housing loans.

Mr. Cook sided with the city's interpretation that no wrongdoing occurred.

Mr. Hodge said Mr. Cook did not suggest major changes.



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