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Director of Washington area housing group resigns in wake of forgery allegations

By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 8, 2010

The executive director of a Washington area affordable housing group implicated in a forgery scheme has resigned, and Fairfax County officials appear to be easing off plans to shut out the nonprofit group from obtaining future government contracts.

Herbert J. Cooper-Levy, who ran the Alexandria-based Robert Pierre Johnson Housing Development Corp. of the National Capital Area since 2001, resigned March 25 and has retained an attorney after Fairfax County accused him of forging a zoning document to secure more than $700,000 in public loans, said Eric Bonetti, the firm's acting executive director.

Bonetti said Wednesday that an internal review of the accusations against Cooper-Levy is not complete, but he called the alleged forgery a "one-time isolated incident." Without elaborating on the details of the case, Bonetti said the nonprofit is changing its employee handbook regarding workplace ethics and plans to institute a whistleblower policy. The nonprofit is also working with Fairfax officials to lift the three-year ban on contracts with the group that the county instituted last month.

"We're cooperating and hope to have this matter settled soon," Bonetti said.

Cooper-Levy, 60, has not returned several phone calls and e-mails seeking comment. He was placed on paid administrative leave a day after the allegations became public, and Bonetti said Cooper-Levy resigned about a week later, shortly before a meeting of RPJ's board of directors.

RPJ Housing is barred from procuring any contracts from the county, but the county can review such decisions and make changes as it sees fits, said the county's purchasing director, Cathy Muse. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said that RPJ Housing was "working well" with the county and that she expected officials to evaluate projects with the nonprofit on a case-by-case basis.

Fairfax County and Alexandria prosecutors have declined to file charges in connection with the county's police probe into RPJ Housing. The Virginia Housing Development Authority, which provided about $511,000 in public funding for the company's purchase of an apartment building in Alexandria, is evaluating its contract with the firm.

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