WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today said the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has agreed to his request to release public housing authority salary data, prompting him to release his hold on an agency nominee.
“Transparency changes behavior,” Grassley said. “HUD needs to embrace that idea. I’m looking forward to the public release of housing authority salary data. Too many housing authority executives exploit the lack of transparency and oversight to pad their own nests at the expense of those who need safe, affordable housing.”
On April 1, Grassley wrote to the Senate Republican leader to announce he intended to object to any unanimous consent request for the Senate to proceed to the nomination of Dr. Katherine M. O’Regan to be an Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. This is commonly known as placing a “hold” on the nomination.
Late Thursday, Grassley talked with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, who then sent Grassley a letter confirming that HUD will publish calendar year 2013 housing authority salary data on HUD’s website by May 16. Grassley’s understanding is HUD will release salary information for the top two paid employees at each housing authority.
Grassley has long pressed HUD to release salary data and require housing authorities to abide by a federal salary cap. Housing authorities routinely transfer federal funding to unrestricted accounts, including non-profit entities, and pay executives out of those funds to avoid violating the salary cap. Transparency will shed a light on that practice, which should not be allowed, Grassley said.
The letter Grassley received from Donovan is available here.
Grassley’s earlier statement on his concerns follows here.
Statement of Senator Charles E. Grassley
Before the United States Senate
April 1, 2014
Mr. President, I intend to object to any unanimous consent request at the present time relating to the nomination of Katherine M. O’Regan to be an Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Every year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development provides billions of dollars to public housing authorities but provides little oversight for how the money is spent. Many housing authority directors are more concerned with padding their own nests instead of providing safe, affordable housing for people in need. One way to change this is to make detailed spending information available to the general public.
I will object to Ms. O’Regan’s nomination because I haven’t yet received a response to my February 14, 2014, letter to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan regarding HUD’s effort to collect Public Housing Authority salary and compensation data for calendar year 2013. Specifically, I asked when the data would be available to the general public on the HUD website and whether it would be available in a searchable, standard electronic format.
This is the second time HUD has requested salary and compensation data from the 3,100 housing authorities across the United States. HUD first requested data for the top five wage earners in August 2011. At that time, I requested that this data be made available to the general public. HUD stated in a December 2011 letter, “This information will be posted on a HUD website, consistent with applicable law. We are now in the process of collecting this information for the first time, and expect that is will be posted during the first quarter of the year.”
Despite HUD’s pledge, the full set of data has never been posted on the Department website. Instead, it only posted three pages of aggregate data in June 2012, and HUD didn’t provide the full set of data to my office until May 2013, nearly two years after the data collection process was initiated.
HUD is aware of the impact this data can have when made available to the public. Shortly after the compensation information was requested in 2011, Congress imposed a one year salary cap for all housing authority executives. Housing authorities are now using federal funding not covered by the salary cap to continue paying large salaries and compensation packages. The compensation data currently being collected would shed light on this practice and should be posted on the HUD website as soon as possible.