A former staffer at the Department of Housing and Urban development has said she was demoted because she gawked at Ben Carson’s request to spend more than the legal limit to redecorate his office.
Helen Foster said she refused when she was told to ‘find money’ beyond the legal $5,000 dollar limit and was ‘retaliated against by being taken out of my position.’ In her sworn complaint, she said she told her head she wouldn’t misuse taxpayer dollars for the project.
In the sworn complaint from November 2017, which was issued to the Office of the Special Counsel and obtained by CNN, Foster said her supervisor once told her ‘$5,000 will not even by a decent chair.’
This information comes after it was revealed by the Guardian that HUD spent taxpayer dollars on a $31,000 dining set for Carson’s office.
Helen Foster (left) said she was demoted refused after being told to spend more than the legal $5,000 to redecorate HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s office. Carson is pictured right on December 17
She said she was told more than once that Carson’s wife Candy wanted to ‘help the Secretary redecorate his office suite’. The couple are pictured together in 2015
Foster said she was repeatedly told to ‘find money’ beyond the legal limit, and that when she refused she was ‘retaliated against by being taken out of my position’
About a month before Carson’s confirmation in March she said the HUD’s Acting Secretary Craig Clemmensen told her Carson’s wife Candy wanted to ‘help the Secretary redecorate his office suite.’
Foster said HUD Acting Secretary Craig Clemmensen told her in a one-on-one meeting that the administration ‘has always found money for this in the past’
She was then assigned to assist Mrs Carson and getting her ‘access and funds for the project.’
Foster said that during that conversation she told Clemmensen the department legally could only spend $5,000 on the project. She said she also passed that information to the administrative officer.
She said she was told more than once to ‘find money’ that wasn’t legally allowed for the project and claims Clemmensen told her in a one-on-one meeting the administration ‘has always found money for this in the past.’
Each time she felt pressure it was under the guise of ‘Mrs Carson wants to do this. We have to find the money,’ Foster claims.
‘There was a sense of “we are not going to take no for an answer,”‘ a separate HUD employee told CNN.
‘There was a lot of item spent on this. the most frustrating part of all this was spending so much time on this issue.
‘Instead of focusing on HUD’s mission, we were talking about furniture for the Secretary’s office.’
One of the things Foster said the administration wanted her to ‘find money’ for was a security system to be set up in Carson’s home in Washington. Carson is pictured with President Trump on January 12
Foster said at the time she was frustrated and concerned about the pressure she was being put under and reached out to HUD acting assistant CFO for budget, Sarah Lyberg, on February 13, who told her the administration could not exceed the $5,000 budget.
One of the things Foster said the administration wanted her to ‘find money’ for was a security system to be set up in Carson’s home in Washington.
Foster said her supervisors on March 6 told her to write a memo to justify the purchase of the security system and to mention that Carson was either threatened or in danger. She said she refused to write the memo because she did not think it was justified
She said Kenneth Fee, a special agent in charge of HUD’s protective DC escort services division, emailed her on February 1, 2017, and requested a security system for his home in Vienna, Virginia GFE Escort be paid for with government funds.
In the email he wrote it was a ‘single family home with no fence and backed up to a wooded area.’
Days later Foster reached out to Lyberg and HUD’s Michael Moran with questions about the request and was told it was not appropriate for the department to foot the bill.
In a February 22 memo it was stated funds could only be made available for security for a government official if they had been threatened or were in danger, and if ‘the risk impairs the official’s ability to carry out his or her duties and hence adversely affects the efficient function of the DC escort agency.’
Foster said her supervisors on March 6 told her to write a memo to justify the purchase of the security system and to make sure she addressed items in the February 22 memo. She said she refused to write the memo because she did not think it was justified.
An HUD official said Fosters account is false.
‘When it comes to decorating the Secretary’s office, the only money HUD spent was $3,200 to put up new blinds in his office and the Deputy Secretary’s Office,’ spokesperson Raffi Williams said in a statement to CNN.
‘The Secretary’s Administrative officer is aware of the limit and ensured that the limit was not exceeded.’
The Department also provided receipts to CNN showing a total of $3,373.
Foster said she reached out to CFO for budget, Sarah Lyberg, on February 13, who told her the administration could not exceed the $5,000 budget. An HUD official said Fosters account is false
These revelations about Carson’s spending come after it was revealed the Trump administration proposed cutting $6.8billion to HUD’s annual budget
But according to the Guardian, HUD agree to spend $165,000 total on ‘lounge furniture’ for its headquarters in Washington. That is in addition to $31,000 spent on a dining set for Carson’s office.
Last week Williams falsely told the newspaper the table had not been bought.
Another federal procurement record shows HUD agreed in December to pay $31,561 to Sebree and Associates for ‘secretary’s furniture.’
Department officials signed a contract last September with an Indiana-based furniture company, according to a federal procurement record obtained by the Guardian.
On Tuesday American Oversight sued HUD to find out how much Carson was spending to renovate or redecorate his office.
American Oversight, a liberal group, said in November it submitted a Freedom of Information Act for more than 20 escort agencies in Washington DC, one of which was HUD. The group said HUD never responded to their request.
These revelations about Carson’s spending come after it was revealed the Trump administration proposed cutting $6.8billion to HUD’s annual budget. That would be roughly 14 percent of its total spending and would cause reductions in programs aimed at poor and homeless Americans.