HUD watchdog finds no misconduct by Carson in furniture controversy: report

HUD watchdog finds no misconduct by Carson in furniture controversy: report
© Aaron Schwartz

The Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) inspector general reportedly said that Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonTrump officials say aid to Puerto Rico was knowingly stalled after Hurricane Maria Yes, President Trump, we do have a homelessness crisis and you're making it harder for us to address New HUD rule would eliminate housing stability for thousands of students MORE and his wife did not violate policy in ordering dining room furniture for his office.

The watchdog's report, obtained by Fox News, found that Carson and his wife did not breach HUD policy by directing staffers to buy dining room furniture to replace pieces in Carson's office suite.

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“We found no evidence indicating that either Secretary or Mrs. Carson exerted improper influence on any departmental employee in connection with the procurement,” the report states, according to Fox News.

“We did not find sufficient evidence to substantiate allegations of misconduct on the part of Secretary Carson in connection with this procurement," it continued.

As a result, the inspector general wrote that it is “not making any recommendations to the Department as a result of the evidence gathered in this investigation because we found no evidence of misconduct and because the Department is working to address the legal ramifications of the dining-room furniture procurement and to prevent future appropriations-law violations.”

Carson and his wife came under fire over the planned furniture purchase in late 2017, which was later abandoned, after a HUD employee argued that she was retaliated against for pointing out that the expenditure passed a $5,000 limit for office upgrades.

Helen Foster, HUD's former chief administrative officer, argued that she was demoted after denying the purchase. The department denied that Foster experienced retaliation, pointing out that she remained an employee while claiming that staff position rotations were normal.

In May, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled that Carson violated the law with unauthorized purchases of dining room furniture and a dishwasher for his office.

“HUD did violate section 710 when it obligated $31,561.00 for the purchase of a dining set for the HUD Secretary’s dining room and $8,812.84 for the purchase and installation of a new dishwasher and associated water treatment system in the kitchen connected to the dining room without providing advance notice to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate," GAO general counsel Thomas Armstrong wrote in a letter.

Agencies like HUD are required to inform Congress of expenditures to furnish an executive's office that exceed $5,000.

A spokesman for HUD noted at the time that multiple secretaries had run afoul of the Antideficiency Act, with Carson being the latest offender, and said that the agency was taking steps to address financial responsibility by officials.