Published: Thu, March 15, 2018
Culture | By Stewart Greene

Ben Carson knew of $31K dining set, according to email

Ben Carson knew of $31K dining set, according to email

Internal emails show Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and his wife picked out a $31,000 dining room set for his government office, according to a new report that directly contradicts prior statements a department spokesperson gave.

"I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered", he continued. Carson personally addressed the issue days later, telling the outlet he was "surprised" by the hefty price tag and was having the order canceled.

"We also have a justification for the cost (as you know, the furniture hasn't been changed since 1988) so this should not be a problem", she added.

A department spokesman, Raffi Williams, said the money was legally allocated because the dining room table served an agencywide function and did not strictly fall under the restrictions placed on the redecoration of the secretary's office.

Foster wrote in a February 22 email that she had to answer "endless questions about why I won't fund more than the $5000 limit" for redecorating the office.

Several months after considering repairs to the dining set in early August, HUD's scheduling office reached out to Candy Carson, the secretary's wife. "There is a designer who will be in town next week on the 15th-17th to look at possibly redecorating the Secretary's office and bringing in new furniture. Are you available on any of those dates and would you like to come in and have input on the redecorating?"

Carson says that while he and his wife approved the styles of furniture they liked, the actual purchase was made by a HUD staffer. "I have requested that the order be canceled".

Last week, Ben Carson denied selecting $31,000 furniture for his office, but newly released emails tell a different story. "I made it known that I was not happy about the prices being charged and that my preference would be to find something more reasonable".

Ms. Rodriguez also sent senior agency officials a detailed estimate of the dining room set provided by a Baltimore-based vendor. HUD's former chief administrative officer, Helen Foster, filed a complaint with the department's special counsel last fall charging that she was demoted in part because she warned other officials that the planned refurbishment would require congressional notification because it would exceed $5,000.

On the Carsons shared Facebook page, they posted their explanation of events citing that he expressed disapproval of the furniture pricing, asked that something comparable but more affordable be ordered, and left the actual purchase up to a HUD staffer.

One email sent on August 29, 2017, by Aida Rodriguez, an administrative officer in the secretary's office, summarizes that $24,666 quote as "a very reasonable price", adding "the funds are available".

Like this: