Ben Carson, Donald Trump’s appointment to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is under scrutiny after reports leaked that at least $31,000 was spent on dining equipment alone in the expensive remodel of his office suite, the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting. What’s more, an employee is claiming that she was demoted for refusing to “find money” to pay for the expensive decorating.
This week, news broke that HUD employee Helen Foster filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that she was demoted from her job as chief administrative officer over the cost of redecorating Carson’s office.
Specifically, claims The Hill, rules limited the amount of money that could be spent on the redecorating of Carson’s office — or any federal official’s office — to $5,000 without federal approval. However, according to Foster’s complaint, last January she was pressured by then-acting HUD Secretary Craig Clemmensen to “find money” so that Carson’s wife, Candy Carson, could redecorate the office. Foster refused, and she says she was demoted in retaliation.
According to CNN, Foster was told that $5,000 “wouldn’t even buy a decent chair.”
In addition to alleged improprieties in how the money was acquired, questions have been raised about how it was spent. Despite the amount of decorating money limited to $5,000, six times that much was spent on a dining set alone. That $31,000 dining set included a a custom hardwood table, chairs, and a hutch. That money was spent even after Foster had filed her complaint.
“$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair.”
A HUD staffer says in a complaint that she was demoted in part for refusing to spend more than was legally allowed to redecorate Secretary Ben Carson’s new office https://t.co/vw2jDaKG8E pic.twitter.com/0JPKksweuA
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) February 28, 2018
According to an unidentified HUD spokesperson, neither Carson nor his wife were aware that the expensive dining set was purchased. They do not intend to return it.
Foster is not amused.
“Its a real shame that an agency that is supposed to be looking after the poorest of the poor are more interested in looking after what their office looks like.”
In addition to the dining set, another seemingly-exorbitant amount of money — $3,400 — was spent on a seemingly-mundane thing: in this case, window blinds.
HUD spokesman Raffi Williams insists that Carson did not spend, or direct to be spent, an exorbitant amount of money.
“The Secretary’s Administrative officer is aware of the limit and ensured that the limit was not exceeded.”
Meanwhile, Carson and HUD are both dealing with complaints that Carson has used his position in order to help his son secure business contracts. Both the elder and younger Carson deny the allegations.