HUD Secretary cleared of wrongdoing in dining set controversy

A bizarre controversy that originated in 2018 involving the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been put to rest. The HUD Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has cleared Secretary Ben Carson of any wrongdoing related to the purchase of an extravagant dining room set, according to a report obtained by RMD.

Secretary Carson was cleared in a report issued by the HUD OIG late last week, where it concluded that the purchase of the set, which was ultimately canceled by Carson, did not constitute inappropriate conduct on the part of the Secretary.

“We are not making any recommendations to the Department as a result of the evidence gathered in this investigation because we found no evidence of misconduct,” the report reads. “And because the Department is working to address the legal ramifications of the dining-room-furniture procurement and to prevent future appropriations-law violations.”

While the OIG determine that laws related to departmental appropriations were indeed broken since Congress was not notified of the pending purchase, but largely blamed long standing legal deficiencies within HUD concerning such purchases to be a larger culprit.

“HUD has since acknowledged that its obligation of funds to purchase dining room furniture for the secretarial suite without advance notification to Congress violated federal appropriations law. The Department has also acknowledged that it has historically lacked effective internal controls to ensure that purchases for presidentially-appointed officials comply with the law, and that this may have resulted in other impermissible obligations or expenditures prior to Secretary Carson’s tenure,” the report reads.

To address the identified deficiency, HUD has put in place “stricter interim controls” to ensure compliance with appropriations law while the Department actively works to create more permanent controls, the report says.

Also having an effect on the final result is that the Department determined that the existing dining room furniture in Dr. Carson’s secretarial suite had “exceeded its service life,” with unstable chairs resulting in protruding nails and instability in spite of prior attempts to repair the chairs, even with short-term remedies like duct tape.

HUD’s Office of Facilities Management Services (OFMS) did in fact determine that the then-current furniture’s replacement was “justifiable,” but that Carson also misunderstood some of the legal limitations placed upon him concerning the amount of funds he was permitted to employ to improve the secretarial suite. OFMS had related to an information officer that the amount available for new furnishings was around $20,000.

Ultimately, OIG determined that the department made a decision to acquire new dining room furniture in “good faith,” and that “there is insufficient evidence to substantiate allegations of misconduct against [Secretary Carson].” Since HUD is taking steps to improve its appropriation policies and to remediate any violations of law, the evidence does not suggest that OIG should recommend any additional actions after its evidence-gathering activities, the office says.

Read the full report at HUD.

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