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CHA chief resigns amid questionable use of credit card

Lewis Jordan resigned Tuesday as CEO Chicago Housing Authority. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

Lewis Jordan resigned Tuesday as CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 21, 2011 12:33AM

Facing mounting controversy over questionable charges to his government credit card as well as over proposed drug testing of residents, Chicago Housing Authority CEO Lewis Jordan resigned Tuesday.

“Over the past two weeks, questions about the propriety of credit card use have overshadowed the good and important work of CHA,’’ Jordan said in a statement announcing his departure at month’s end. “The charges in question amount to approximately $15,000 over three years, were not used for any personal expenditures, and were consistent with CHA and HUD policies and practices.’’

However, he said the questions have “become an impediment to my ability to steer this $1 billion a year organization through the important work it does.”

CHA Board Chairman James Reynolds acknowledged the allegations of inappropriate purchases on government-issued credit cards at the agency was the major impetus for the move.

“It is with great reluctance that I accept the resignation,” Reynolds said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel had earlier been non-committal about retaining Jordan as CEO. Jordan was appointed in 2007 by former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

A recent Better Government Association/Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 news investigation found the CHA under Jordan was the worst abuser among sister city agencies who were government-issued credit cards. The card issued to Jordan himself had been used to pay for numerous pricey meals at expensive restaurants like Carmine’s and Gibsons. The investigation also found CHA credit cards were used to buy thousands of dollars worth of flowers, cakes and holiday gifts for employees, a suite at the United Center and for payment of red-light camera tickets.

Calling the alleged abuses “completely unacceptable,” Emanuel ordered an immediate stop on use of the cards by CHA and other sister agencies, including CTA, the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Public Schools — and initiated an audit of agency policies.

Emanuel also relieved Jordan of two CHA cars at his disposal as well as the drivers, who were Chicago police officers.

“Given the scrutiny surrounding the recent media coverage, I fully understand Lewis’ desire to move forward to end the attacks regarding his character and ethics,” Reynolds said of Jordan.

“The successes and accomplishments of CHA during his tenure are numerous. I wish him all the best.”

Jordan had also ignited a storm of controversy with residents, housing advocates and civil libertarians with a proposal to require all adults who live in or apply for public housing to be tested for drugs — including senior citizens.

In his statement, Jordan took credit for moving the agency forward and implementing its historic Plan for Transformation that has seen CHA’s infamous high-rises steadily replaced with 25,000 new housing units.

“For the past three and a half years, it has been exciting and productive times,” Jordan said.

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