Feds take over city's housing authority

Wednesday, October 4th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) _ The federal government took over the Beaumont housing agency but acknowledged that the action may not remedy the racial segregation that has plagued the city for decades.

Federal Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo said the city housing authority not only failed to integrate public housing but fostered segregation by keeping blacks on one side of town _ all in defiance of a court order.

The Beaumont authority also placed only 40 tenants in 150 units set aside by the federal government in 1992, Cuomo said.

A federal manager will oversee Beaumont public housing while the authority's counterpart in neighboring Port Arthur takes over day-to-day management, Cuomo said.

Local housing authority officials did not return several telephone messages left by The Associated Press. But John Goodyear, who resigned last month as chairman of the authority under pressure from the federal government, said local HUD officials knew about the authority's actions and approved them.

``The housing authority was in the best shape it had been in its history,'' Goodyear said. ``But it was a political takeover to be done during a political year for a political reason. The accusations they made were groundless.''

Goodyear said he asked for an inspector general's investigation of Tuesday's federal action.

Segregation has remained rampant throughout East Texas public housing despite mandated integration in 1964, Cuomo said, and Beaumont, a city of 125,000 about 90 miles east of Houston that is about half black, has been a focus of racial integration efforts for decades.

In 1980, a group of blacks sued the housing authority over the issue, and five years later courts held the federal government responsible for making sure integration took place.

Cuomo said the federal government has tried to work with the housing authority for years, but board members did not cooperate and illegally sold off property. The authority also did not provide the government with records documenting the racial breakdown of residents.

A monitoring agency set up in a mid-1990s desegregation order by U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice concluded recently that the Beaumont authority actually impeded desegregation by keeping blacks and whites apart, Cuomo said.

``That is unacceptable,'' Cuomo said, while acknowledging that the takeover may not immediately solve the city's problems.

``I don't want to suggest to anyone this is a short process,'' Cuomo said.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees 2,800 local housing authorities, has seized such entities eight times during the Clinton administration.

Cuomo said he was not yet sure if charges will be filed against people associated with the authority.


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