HUD official quits amid Interior Department watchdog controversy

HUD official quits amid Interior Department watchdog controversy
© HUD

A top political official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development resigned Friday after HUD Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonHousing and health care go hand-in-hand Carson's calendar includes trips to Florida on Fridays: report The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems grapple with race, gender and privilege 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 TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated MORE would be unable to provide unbiased oversight of Interior and its secretary, Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeInterior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal investigation Acting Interior chief moves to protect access to public lands Overnight Energy: Judge halts drilling on Wyoming public lands over climate change | Dems demand details on Interior's offshore drilling plans | Trump mocks wind power MORE, who is the subject of numerous investigations by the watchdog office.

ADVERTISEMENT

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.