Ben Carson’s Spending Habits Called Into Question By House Oversight Committee
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s spending habits are being called into question.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is requesting that Carson turn over several documents after Helen Foster, HUD's former chief administrative officer, filed a complaint alleging that she was demoted for “refusing to abet in exceeding” a $5,000 budget to redecorate his office.
Oversight Committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), sent a letter to Carson on Wednesday (Feb. 28), requesting “all documents and communication referring or relating to Foster” dating back to last August. In addition, the letter asks for documents and communications relating to redecorating and furnishing Carson's office.
Carson has until March 14 to produce the documents.
The request came one day after the New York Times reported that Carson spent $31,000 in taxpayer money last year to buy a dining room set for his office. Carson's spending matters are even more controversial as the department of housing is expected to face massive budget cuts.
In her complaint, filed with the Office of Special Counsel, and reported by CNN, Foster says HUD’s acting secretary, Craig Clemmensen, commissioned her to decorate the office last March. Foster says that she was told that Carson’s wife, Candi, wanted to assist her.
Despite informing Clemmensen that $5,000 was the legal spending cap, Foster asserts to being repeatedly pressured to find a way to get Carson “access and funds for the project.” Foster also says that she was told that $5,000 wasn’t enough to buy a “decent chair.”
"There was a sense of 'we are not going to take no for an answer,'" a former HUD employee told CNN of the decoration debacle. "There was a lot of staff time spent on this.
"The most frustrating part of all this was spending so much time on this issue," added the ex-employee. "Instead of focusing on HUD's mission, we were talking about furniture for the Secretary's office."
According to The Guardian, Foster's complaint goes on to accuse HUD of violating laws “protecting whistleblowers from reprisals.” Furthermore, Foster claims that she was essentially punished for pointing out a $10 million budgeting shortfall, and blocked from handling a Donald Trump-related freedom of information request because she was assumed to be a Democrat.
Foster wants a public apology, compensatory damages, and for her HUD position to be reinstated.
*Update: Carson canceled his $31,000 dining set order amid growing controversy.