A Texas real estate developer who has publicly criticized the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, the federal agency that regulates savings and loans, says the agency may have broken into his office in search of tapes of conversations that could embarrass agency officials.
Joe R. Dobson, a developer in Austin, took his concerns to Congress last month after reading a newspaper story about a law firm that was hired by the bank board. The law firm used private detectives -- and federal funds -- to investigate a New Jersey real estate developer who, like Dobson, was publicly critical of the bank board.
Rep. James J. Florio (D-N.J.) made Dobson's complaints public yesterday in a letter to the bank board asking the agency for any information on the alleged break-in. Florio already has asked the bank board and the Justice Department to investigate the legality of using private detectives to spy on the New Jersey man, William Juliano.
A bank board spokesman said the agency would have no comment on Florio's latest request until it looked into the matter.
The criticism of the bank board by Dobson, Juliano and others centers on a wholly owned subsidiary of the bank board, the Federal Asset Disposition Association. FADA was created by the bank board in 1985 with $25 million in federal funds.
FADA's purpose is to sell property and other assets the government inherits from failed savings and loans, but real estate developers and several congressmen say the government unit is riddled with conflicts of interest and self-dealing.
The critics claim that instead of bringing efficiency to the task of selling property on behalf of taxpayers, FADA adds a layer of cost and red tape to the job.
Juliano and Dobson, for example, say FADA gave them the runaround when they tried to buy property from it or negotiate loans on property.
Dobson said that FADA failed to honor a multimillion-dollar loan agreement the government had inherited from a failed S&L and instead foreclosed on a condominium complex he owned. FADA officials told Dobson they planned to "develop it themselves and sell it," Florio said in his letter.
A month after Dobson told FADA officials that he had secretly tape recorded conversations in which he said the officials promised the loan would be honored, someone "burglarized and ransacked" Dobson's office, Florio said.
"The only items missing from Mr. Dobson's office were tapes from his telephone answering machine, despite the considerable effort expended by the intruders to break in, and the valuable equipment in the office," Florio said in the letter.
The answering machine tapes did not contain Dobson's conversations with the government officials, the letter said.
"The circumstances surrounding the break-in of Mr. Dobson's office are troubling. I ask that you inform me immediately of any information you may have on this matter," the letter says.