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HUD spent $31,000 on a dining set for Ben Carson’s office

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A senior staff member was told that “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair”

A wide, concrete office building that curves inward on the wings.
The Marcel Breuer-designed Robert C. Weaver Federal Building, headquarters of HUD, in Washington, D.C.
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The Department of Housing and Urban Development spent $31,561 redecorating Secretary Ben Carson’s office late last year, the New York Times reports, just as the government proposed drastic budgets cuts to programs that aid low-income families.

The money was spent on a custom dining set commissioned from a Baltimore-based government contractor, Sebree and Associates, which has also worked with the Smithsonian, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Commerce. Carson’s order included a hardwood table, chairs, and hutch for the secretary’s office suite, circumventing a law that requires officials to request congressional approval of any expenditures “to furnish or redecorate the office of a department head” exceeding $5,000. HUD spokesman Raffi Williams tells the Times it wasn’t reported “because the dining set served a ‘building-wide need.’”

Although HUD claims that Ben Carson did not request a replacement for the original table, and did not know that a new table had been purchased, senior staff member Helen G. Foster filed a whistleblower complaint a month prior charging that the Secretary’s wife, Candy Carson, had pressured department officials to find additional money for redecorating his offices.

Foster, who has been removed from her position as the department’s chief administrative officer (and subsequently moved to the agency’s unit overseeing Freedom of Information Act requests), was told by HUD’s interim secretary Craig Clemmensen that “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair.”

While it’s not clear exactly what the standards are for redecorating a government office, $5,000 is enough to purchase a fine set of classic dining chairs. May we suggest the Profile chair, or Gio Ponti’s Leggera chair, or Hans Wegner’s iconic Wishbone chair to go with the Brutalist setting of the Marcel Breuer-designed Robert C. Weaver Federal Building?

Via: The New York Times