WASHINGTON — House investigators Thursday summoned U.S. Trade Representative Carla Anderson Hills to testify next week at hearings on political favoritism at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Hills, a secretary of housing in the mid-1970s, will be asked about her intervention in 1985 with top officials of the agency on behalf of DRG Funding Corp., a troubled mortgage lender that was suspended by HUD recently after defaulting on mortgage loans. She will also be asked about her representation of a Florida real estate firm that received at least one grant for moderate rehabilitation--or "Mod Rehab"--public housing units for the poor.
Her invitation was reported as the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee voted to conduct its own investigation of the HUD scandals, already the subject of an inquiry by a House Government Operations subcommittee chaired by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo).
Lantos denied reports, however, that his panel would grant immunity to Deborah Gore Dean, a once-powerful aide to former HUD Secretary Samuel R. Pierce Jr., to obtain her testimony about Pierce's role in approval of multimillion-dollar federal grants to politically well-connected developers.
Dean, who invoked her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when she was called before the House subcommittee last month, was reported to be seeking immunity through her attorney, Joseph E. diGenova.
"The granting of immunity to Miss Dean is not under active consideration by this subcommittee," Lantos said in a statement. DiGenova refused to discuss negotiations with the subcommittee.
Congressional sources said that testimony about Pierce may be obtained from other former HUD officials, such as Shirley M. Wiseman. Wiseman has said that she resigned rather than carry out an order from Pierce to grant rehabilitation subsidies to a project in Durham, N.C.--a project that was supported by Pierce's former law partner and a key Republican campaign strategist for former President Ronald Reagan.
Wiseman is expected to give the most damaging testimony against Pierce when she appears today before the Lantos subcommittee along with Janet Hale, another former HUD official who reportedly signed the Durham award at Pierce's direction. Hale now is an associate director of the Office of Management and Budget who supervises spending by HUD.