Thursday, 14 November, 2019

Complaint: HUD employee demoted over office makeover request

Over $30,000 of government funds spent to redecorate Ben Carson's office All rights reserved Ben Carson
Patty Aguilar | 02 March, 2018, 00:20

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, led by Secretary Ben Carson, is spending a small fortune on new furniture while it proposes to cut billions from its own budget.

In the New York Times report, it paints a picture of Carson's wife, Candy Carson, pressuring HUD officials to find money for the office "even if it meant circumventing the law".

Williams said Carson "didn't know the table had been purchased", The Times reported.

Department officials did not request approval from the House or Senate Appropriations Committees for the expenditure of $31,561, even though federal law requires congressional approval "to furnish or redecorate the office of a department head" if the cost exceeds $5,000. The paper reveals that, while the department was planning billions in cuts to federal spending on public housing (austerity that is all but certain to increase the nation's homeless population) late previous year, HUD spent $31,000 on a custom dining-room set for Carson's office.

A spokesman for Hud, Raffi Williams, claimed that the $5,000 limit did not apply because the table served a "building-wide need".

According to that report, on a recent tour of homeless shelters Carson was happy if the shelter was obviously an uncomfortable place to live, while the conservative Christian appeared put off if a shelter seemed too comfortable. Helen G. Foster, HUD's former chief administrative officer, tells the news organization she was told by officials that they always found money for this type of thing in the past and that $5,000 can't "buy a decent chair". Under pressure earlier this month, he requested that HUD's inspector general investigate his son's involvement in a department-sponsored listening tour of Baltimore last summer.

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Foster says that she was told that Carson's wife, Candi, wanted to assist her. The existence of the complaint was first reported Tuesday by The Guardian.

Kasper and Patton were unable to comment because of the pending complaint, Williams said.

Noah Bookbinder, Crew's executive director, also cited a separate allegation made by Foster that she was blocked by Hud's in-house lawyers from handling politically sensitive Freedom of Information Act (Foia) requests that Hud received, apparently because she was perceived to be a Democrat.

The sources told CNN that the stories infuriated top White House aides, who have had to deal with a sting of stories about questionable behavior and spending by Cabinet secretaries.

"We have an open matter", Madden said.

Foster is asking for back pay and damages to reimburse her attorney's fees, for all files related to her reassignment to be expunged and for a public apology from the department.

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