Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was involved in selecting a $31,000 dining table set for his office suite, emails show, despite Carson and HUD’s statements that he had no knowledge of the costly request.
A cache of emails obtained by the advocacy group American Oversight show a HUD employee referring to “print outs of the furniture Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out” on Aug. 29, 2017.
In the same email chain with Carson’s executive assistant and chief of staff, HUD administrative officer Aida Rodriguez provided a price quote of just under $24,666 for the set.
“I think this is a very reasonable price and the funds are available,” Rodriguez wrote. “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.”
Federal law prohibits the head of a department spending more than $5,000 on refurnishing an office without getting advance approval from Congress.
The emails, first reported by CNN, also indicate that Carson’s wife, Candy Carson, came to the office to weigh in on the redecoration plan.
When asked on Wednesday evening for comment on the emails, HUD spokesman Raffi Williams said, “When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles.“ He did not elaborate.
After news of the planned purchase surfaced late last month, a HUD spokesman said that career staff made the decision to replace the current table without consulting the secretary.
Carson elaborated in a Facebook post on March 5.
“I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered,” Carson wrote. “I have requested that the order be canceled.”