Rep. Trey Gowdy, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is demanding answers from Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson over allegations of excessive spending and reprisals at the agency.
Gowdy wrote to Carson after a high-ranking civil servant said she demoted after blowing the whistle on lavish spending at HUD.
“To help the Committee determine whether HUD adhered to the applicable spending limitations while redecorating your office, please provide ... [a]ll documents and communications referring or relating to redecorating, furnishing, or equipping your office since January 1, 2017,” he said in the letter, according to excerpts released Wednesday.
Additionally, the chairman wrote, “please arrange to brief the Committee on this matter after producing the requested documents and information."
HUD official Helen Foster, in a sworn complaint to the Office of Special Counsel, raised concerns over spending at the department, including Carson’s plans for redecorating.
According to Foster’s lawyers, she was demoted without warning or explanation in July 2017, less than a year after being promoted to the role of chief administrative officer. In her position, Foster oversaw spending and office space at HUD.
In January 2017, Foster’s legal team says, she was instructed to “find money” for redecorating after Carson’s wife sought funds to purchase furniture. The amount was said to have exceeded the $5,000 legal limit, prompting Foster to voice her objection.
Craig Clemmensen, the designated acting secretary at the time, replied that the $5,000 “will not even buy a decent chair,” according to the complaint. (Politico)
Other spending concerns have surfaced, including that HUD officials dropped $31,000 on a new dining room set for Carson’s office in 2017, which came at a time the White House was planning to cut the agency’s programs for the elderly, poor, and homeless, The New York Times reports.