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 CarsonCarson's affordable housing idea drawing undue flak Overnight Energy: Trump EPA looks to change air pollution permit process | GOP senators propose easing Obama water rule | Green group sues EPA over lead dust rules Green group sues EPA over lead dust rules it says are too lax 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 TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE would be unable to provide unbiased oversight of Interior and its secretary, Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeNew policy at Interior's in-house watchdog clamps down on interactions with press Overnight Energy: EPA proposes scrapping limits on coal plant waste | Appointee overseeing federal lands once advocated selling them | EPA lifts Obama-era block on controversial mine Latest appointee overseeing federal public lands once advocated to sell them 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.