The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) inspector general cleared Secretary Ben Carson and his wife of any misconduct in the controversy surrounding an order for expensive furniture in late 2017.
The watchdog’s report confirmed that Carson and his wife did not violate HUD policy when they instructed staffers to buy dining room furniture to replace the old furniture in Carson’s office.
“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.
“I was so disgusted with that story because, you know, they try to claim that I want to buy expensive furniture while I’m trying to take money away from the poor people,” Carson told FOX Business. “That was the only narrative that they were interested in.”
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.”
“We found no evidence indicating that either Secretary or Mrs. Carson exerted improper influence on any departmental employee in connection with the procurement,” the inspector general report reads. “We did not find sufficient evidence to substantiate allegations of misconduct on the part of Secretary Carson in connection with this procurement.”
From the beginning, Carson has stated that he left the purchase of the furniture to his staff with consultation from his wife. He testified before the House Appropriations Committee hearing in March of 2018.
“A few months later I was told that the dining rooms needed to be changed. I said why because people are being stuck by nails, a chair collapsed with someone sitting in it—its 50 years old. I said, ‘Ok, we can potentially do that.’ I asked my wife to also help me with that.”
Carson said the staff showed her a catalog in which the prices were beyond what he wanted to pay. “I made it clear that that just didn’t seem right to me. And I left it with my wife and said, ‘Help choose something’ but I said the money that is going to be used, we need to take care of the deputy secretary’s office. And you know, whatever is left over [will] take care of the dining room furniture.”
“I was running from place to place dealing with a lot of important issues. So I really wasn’t concerned about the furniture. The next thing that I quite frankly heard about it was this $31,000 table had been bought. I said, ‘What the heck is that all about?’ investigated, and immediately had it canceled. Not that we did not need the furniture, but I thought that was excessive.”
Carson and his wife were accused of lavish spending while cutting money from impoverished communities after a HUD employee, Helen Foster, claimed that she was retaliated against for pointing out that the expenditure exceeded the congressional limit for office upgrades.
Foster, HUD’s former chief administrative officer, claimed that she faced backlash and was forced into a subordinate position after contesting the purchase. The department denied that Foster experienced retaliation, pointing out that she remained an employee and that staff position rotations were normal.
Congress requires agencies like HUD to report expenditures related to furnishing an executive’s office that surpass $5,000.
“There’s probably no one in Washington who cares less about furniture than I do,” Carson said. “But here’s the key thing, Stuart: Will they now come back and say, ‘Well, we were wrong, Carson’? Of course not—they’ll say nothing—slime balls.”