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Housing Authority director cleared

(ran NS S edition of B)

A judge cleared suspended city Housing Authority director Edward White Jr. of the mismanagement charges that put his job in jeopardy.

"Absolved! Totally absolved!" his lawyer said after he learned of the ruling Tuesday.

"The next step is up to the Housing Authority. The ball is in their court," lawyer James D. Eckert said.

White could not be reached Tuesday for comment. Administrative Law Judge William C. Cregar's order, issued Friday, rescinded the letter from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that so restricted White's participation in the local Housing Authority that its board of commissioners suspended him in January.

"The government has not shown by adequate evidence" that White was guilty of any of the several charges leveled against him, the 15-page ruling said. White was cleared of improperly relocating tenants from Laurel Park after the city bought the housing complex to make room for Dome parking; and improperly spending proceeds from that sale.

In addition, the judge wrote, HUD didn't establish any irregularities in White's past performance; no failure to honor contracts or follow HUD regulations; no false certification in connection with any HUD programs; nor any violation of law, regulation or procedure relating to grants or financial assistance.

Spokeswoman Linda Lipthrott at HUD's regional office in Atlanta said HUD will appeal the judge's order. "We intend to have it filed quickly _ in a week or two."

The immediate effect of the order was unclear, and any action locally will likely be delayed pending HUD's appeal. Linda E. Bradley, acting director since White's suspension, issued a statement that said the housing authority is not a party to the litigation between HUD and White, and that it will regard the restrictions White had been under as still in effect.

The job restrictions were issued Jan. 28, prohibiting White from taking part in any program financed by HUD for a year. HUD is involved in most of the housing authority's finances.

The housing authority board suspended White without pay, then undertook proceedings that could lead to his firing. Those pre-termination hearings are being contested in the Second District Court of Appeal.

A week after he was removed from his post, White sued the housing authority seeking reinstatement plus court costs.

Eckert, White's attorney, said the diligence with which HUD is financing its "pursuit of White" makes him think someone is out to get White. He said he had no idea who it could be, or what his or her motive might be.

Eckert declined to say if he plans to follow the judge's order with an attempt to recover damages from HUD or the housing authority.