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Gowdy requests documents on Carson office redecoration

The House Oversight Committee is requesting information from Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Be...

Posted: Mar. 1, 2018 2:04 PM
Updated: Mar. 1, 2018 2:04 PM

The House Oversight Committee is requesting information from Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson over lavish spending on office redecoration and allegations that he retaliated against one of his employees who refused to spend more than was legally allowed.

In a letter addressed to Carson Tuesday, committee chair Trey Gowdy requested all documents and communications related to the "decorating, furnishing or equipping" of Carson's office dating back to January 1, 2017, be turned over, which includes receipts for the related expenses.

Gowdy, R-South Carolina, also asks Carson to "arrange to brief the committee on this matter."

The committee wants the documents and communications related to Helen Foster, the former chief administrative officer for HUD who alleges she was demoted partly because she refused to spend more than was legally allowed to redecorate Carson's office.

In a sworn complaint to the Office of Special Counsel last November that first surfaced this week, Foster said she was pressured to "find money" beyond the legal $5,000 limit for redecorating. In one instance, she says a supervisor argued that "$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair."

Foster wrote that because she refused to exceed the cap, she was "retaliated against by being taken out of my position as Chief Administrative Officer."

Carson said on Twitter Wednesday that "there has been no dishonesty or wrongdoing."

A HUD spokesman also disputed Foster's account and ensured to CNN that only $3,200 was spent on new blinds for Carson and the deputy secretary's office. HUD provided receipts to CNN that total $3,373.

CNN reported Wednesday that HUD also spent $31,000 last year to replace a dining room set in Carson's office, according to federal records and a whistleblower. A HUD official told CNN that the dining set was replaced because it was in a state of disrepair and is not subject to the $5,000 limit.

Carson announced Thursday that he wants to cancel the dining set.

"I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered," Carson said in a statement Thursday provided to CNN by his spokesperson Armstrong Williams. "I have requested that the order be canceled. We will find another solution for the furniture replacement."

The House Oversight Committee gave Carson until March 14 to hand over related documents and communications.

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