28 February 2018  |  Updated March 2  |  Ben Carson, the Adventist physician who serves as the cabinet member who heads the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), announced late on Thursday (March 1) that he has canceled the $31,000 dining set that was ordered for his office. The spending took place against the backdrop of a proposed $6.8 billion cut to the HUD’s annual budget which would slash resources available for the poor and homeless. According to The Guardian newspaper the spending on Carson’s dining set accompanied an additional $165,000 spent on “lounge furniture” for the HUD’s Washington headquarters.

The New York Times reported that Helen G. Foster, formerly a top HUD official, claimed that she had been demoted and transferred after she resisted alleged calls by Candy Carson, the HUD secretary’s wife, to circumvent federal law that capped Carson’s redecoration budget at $5,000.

Mrs. Carson’s redecoration efforts had allegedly begun in January 2017. Foster claims that then HUD interim secretary Craig Clemmensen had spoken to her on Mrs. Carson’s behalf. Foster said that Clemmensen told her to “find money” to procure better office furniture for Secretary Carson. The Guardian reported Foster’s claim that Clemmensen said “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair.”

Foster lost her job as HUD chief administration officer and was made head of the agency’s unit for Freedom of Information Act requests after sending HUD leadership the details of federal law that would require congressional approval for the expenditures and refusing to circumvent the $5,000 cap. Foster characterized the demotion as an act of retribution. She filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, a federal whistle-blower agency.

Carson is a former neurosurgeon who launched a 2016 U.S. presidential bid to be the Republican Party candidate. After his failed campaign, Carson accepted an invitation to become secretary of the HUD in President Donald Trump’s administration.

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