Ben Carson, self-proclaimed cost cutter at the helm of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, spent $31,000 in taxpayer money on a new dining room set for his office. And he doesn’t plan to return it.
The department did not ask for approval from Congressional appropriations committee, which is required for any office redecoration costing more than $5,000. The justification, according to a HUD spokesperson: the table, which sits inside Carson’s office, serves a “building-wide need.” The table was bought from a company in Carson’s hometown, Baltimore, the New York Times reported.
An agency spokesperson said Carson wasn’t aware of the purchase but does not plan to return it, according to the Times.
Last year HUD official Helen Foster filed a complaint alleging she was demoted after she resisted Carson’s wife Candy Carson’s requests to sidestep the $5,000 law. According to Foster, HUD interim Craig Clemmensen asked her on Candy’s behalf to “find money” to pay for the decoration in January 2017. Foster refused, and was later demoted from chief administrative officer to a new role overseeing the agency’s Freedom of Information Act requests, she said.
The HUD spokesperson claimed Foster was reassigned as part of a routine reorganization of the agency. “Secretary Carson, to the best of our knowledge, is the only secretary to go to the subbasement at his agency to select the furniture for his office,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile Carson is also under pressure for bringing his son, whose company does business with the federal government, along on an official tour of Baltimore year. The agency’s inspector general is looking into the trip, and whether it created conflicts of interest.
Earlier this month the White House proposed slashing HUD’s budget by $8.8 billion, or 18 percent. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, has warned against making publuc housing “too comfortable” for residents. [NYT] — Konrad Putzier