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HUD official quits amid Interior Department watchdog controversy

HUD official quits amid Interior Department watchdog controversy
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A top political official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development resigned Friday after HUD Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonTo end homelessness, follow the science Ben Carson attended indoor fundraiser where attendees didn't wear masks: report Building the Dream: We're in This Together MORE said she was slated to be the Interior Department’s top watchdog, apparently by mistake.

HUD spokesman Raffi Williams said late Friday that Suzanne Israel Tufts, HUD’s assistant secretary for administration, “has offered her resignation and it has been accepted.”

Carson told his staff a week ago that Tufts would leave to become Interior’s acting inspector general on a temporary basis, as first reported by The Hill. The announcement alarmed Democrats and conservationists, who felt that an ally to President TrumpDonald John TrumpFox News president, top anchors advised to quarantine after coronavirus exposure: report Six notable moments from Trump and Biden's '60 Minutes' interviews Biden on attacks on mental fitness: Trump thought '9/11 attack was 7/11 attack' MORE would be unable to provide unbiased oversight of Interior and its secretary, Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith Zinke5 major ways that Interior slashed protections for wildlife  Trump extends Florida offshore drilling pause, expands it to Georgia, South Carolina Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention MORE, who is the subject of numerous investigations by the watchdog office.

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Tufts would have replaced Mary Kendall, the deputy inspector general and top official in the watchdog office, as its most senior employee.

Interior said on Thursday that Carson’s email was “false information,” and Tufts was never offered a job at the Interior Department.

“Ms. Tufts is not employed by the Department and no decision was ever made to move her to Interior,” Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a Thursday statement. “HUD sent out an email that had false information in it.”

HUD said Friday that Carson’s announcement that Tufts would move to Interior was due to “a recent miscommunication at the staff level.”

Williams did not immediately answer a question about Tufts’s plans after HUD. Tufts, a lawyer who previously helped train attorneys to work for Trump’s campaign, was in a Senate-confirmed position.

Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told the Washington Post that the Trump administration is looking for someone to nominate as Interior’s inspector general, a job that’s been vacant for almost a decade.

— Miranda Green contributed.