Report: Ben Carson wants to cancel custom furniture order

House Oversight Committee asks for information about purchase and demoted employee claims

Following reports about the Department of Housing and Urban Development ordering a $31,000 custom hardwood dining set for Secretary Ben Carson’s office, Carson is requesting that the order be canceled, according to a new statement from Carson’s adviser and media personality Armstrong Williams.

In a report in the New York Times, Williams explained that Carson is working to cancel the custom furniture order.

“At the request of the secretary, the agency is working to rescind the order for the dining room set,” Williamssaid on Thursday, but added that it might not be possible.

From the article:

Canceling the order for the custom-made furniture will not be easy, and it is unlikely the government will recoup all its money even if the dining room set is never delivered. It was ordered Dec. 21 from a small Baltimore company.

“He’s not returning the table; he is attempting to cancel the order,” Mr. Williams said. “HUD is a bureaucracy, so everything is complicated. The person they contracted has already spent $14,000 making the table. While his intentions are to cancel it, we have to see what happens.”

In a statement about the furniture, Carson said “Nobody was more surprised than me,” about the order.

However, according to the New York Times’ Glenn Thrush, several anonymous department officials say otherwise.

From the article:

But several department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said it would have been highly unusual for Mr. Carson not to have been told that a significant section of his office suite was about to be upgraded.

According to Mr. Williams, neither Mr. Carson nor his wife, Candy Carson, had any prior knowledge of the order, although a whistle-blower has said Mrs. Carson had pressured her to circumvent a $5,000 statutory limit on renovation expenses.

But even if Carson cancels the order, he still has to face questions from the House Oversight Committee about the spending and about the ethics complaint made by HUD’s former chief of administration, who said she was demoted for calling out the department on its spending.

According to Politico, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, requested Carson turn over all documents and communications pertaining to allegations by Helen Foster that she was targeted after pushing back against the agency’s spending.

“To help the Committee determine whether HUD adhered to the applicable spending limitations while redecorating your office, please provide … [a]ll documents and communications referring or relating to redecorating, furnishing, or equipping your office since January 1, 2017,” according to the letter.  

But that’s not all. Gowdy asked for a briefing on the matter, adding: "In addition, please arrange to brief the Committee on this matter after producing the requested documents and information."

Carson has until March 14 to provide the committee its requested documents.

Carson is also facing an investigation after HUD officials expressed ethics concerns about the extensive involvement that his family members – especially his son, Benjamin Jr. – played in official HUD business, including the scheduling of an agency listening tour in Baltimore.

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