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HUD Secretary Cisneros Sued for $256,000 by Former Lover
By Guy Gugliotta
A Texas woman sued Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros for $256,000 today, alleging he ceased making promised monthly payments to compensate her for "anguish," "emotional distress" and loss of livelihood following the end of their three-year love affair.
In the suit filed in state court in Lubbock, Tex., Linda Medlar said Cisneros in 1990 had "offered a settlement agreement" of $4,000 per month to her, until she was able to get a job, or until her daughter, now 16, finished college.
In Lubbock, Medlar's lawyer, Floyd Holder, described the agreement as "an oral contract," breached when Cisneros stopped making payments in January. "She would rather cut off her arm than have to do this, but she's in extremis," Holder said. "She's used all her money, savings and credit, and has not been able to secure employment to support herself or her child." Holder said $256,000 would fulfill what he said was Cisneros's obligation through May 1999 when Medlar's daughter would graduate from college.
Cisneros, whose celebrated affair with Medlar began in 1987 while he was mayor of San Antonio, said in a telephone interview that when Medlar "requested assistance over the years, I tried to be helpful." He said "she requested $4,000 per month, but I couldn't do that consistently." He said he did not know how much he had paid Medlar over the years and did not consider he had ever had a "legal obligation" to assist her.
But when he became secretary of housing and urban development in January 1993, he said he stopped making monthly payments because he could no longer afford them on his $148,400 per year salary. He said he continued to give Medlar money "out of my savings" for an additional year.
Cisneros said he had told the Clinton transition team about the payments when he was being interviewed for the HUD job in late 1992. He denied, however, that the payments have had anything to do with his decision not to run for governor or senator from Texas.
When Cisneros met Medlar he was 39 and nationally famous as the high-profile Hispanic mayor of San Antonio. Medlar, then 38, was the twice-divorced wife of a well-to-do San Antonio jeweler. She had worked as a fund-raiser in several Cisneros campaigns.
The affair was the worst kept secret in San Antonio, and the subject of constant gossip. Cisneros spoke about his "special friend" in background interviews with many reporters in the city, but when he publicly acknowledged it in October 1988, it earned banner headlines for weeks.
Most accounts of the affair have focused on the damage it did to Cisneros's personal life and career: how Cisneros stepped down as mayor in 1990; how he abandoned plans to run for governor or senator; how his marriage to his wife, Mary Alice, nearly foundered.
The Medlar lawsuit, however, tells a different story. Cisneros, Medlar alleged, disclosed "private facts" about her without her consent and without warning. The disclosures subjected Medlar "to public scorn and humiliation, and caused her to suffer severe anguish and emotional distress."
In addition, the suit added, the disclosures "resulted in her loss of employment and in her being ostracized from ... social and professional communities ... and made her unemployable, as a practical matter."
Worse, the suit said, "at the insistence" of Cisneros, Medlar "surrendered substantially all" her assets and claims on her husband in a subsequent divorce settlement. She had been "publicly and thoroughly humiliated," the suit said, had little money and no job prospects.
Cisneros confirmed he and Medlar broke off their affair in 1990, and he agreed to "assist" Medlar financially, although "we discussed that this was not a legal obligation." Cisneros said in a statement he had also talked over the arrangement with his wife.
After he left his job as mayor, Cisneros became an investment counselor and speechmaker. Financial disclosure statements showed he made $292,300 in speaking fees alone in 1992.
But as HUD secretary he can accept no compensation for speeches, and his other assets are effectively frozen while he is in office. Cisneros has three children and a wife who does not work. He said he told Medlar in early 1993 he would not be able to help her indefinitely.
"I had assisted her for the better part of three years," Cisneros said. "I felt I had done everything a person could reasonably do."
© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company
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