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Ben Carson knew about $31000 dining set despite statements to the contrary

14 March 2018

Carson, a retired and celebrated neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, has faced increased scrutiny for the $31,000 dining room set - ordered at a time when the agency was contemplating deep cuts to housing programs.

The newly released emails show discussions about the dining set going back to May, when repairs to chairs of the existing furniture were discussed. But when HUD was confronted by the high price, Carson's spokesperson denied that the secretary had no knowledge of the furniture being bought in the first place.

An August email obtained by the liberal watchdog group American Oversight shows a HUD staff member making reference to "the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out". "We will find another solution for the furniture replacement".

Carson and his spokesman Raffi Williams repeatedly claimed that the Hud secretary was not involved in a decision to make the purchase, after the Guardian revealed a controversy at the department around the furnishing of his office.

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Foster wrote in a February 22 email that she had to answer "endless questions about why I won't fund more than the $5000 limit" for redecorating the office.

But in an email on 29 August previous year that was released on Wednesday, an official at Hud wrote that Carson and his wife, Candy, had "picked out" the furniture themselves.

"I did not request new furniture, but asked if it could be remediated".

But the newly revealed emails show that Carson had been involved in redecorating the secretary's office early on in the process. "Are you available on any of those dates and would you like to come in and have input on the redecorating?"

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Two days later, however, another HUD staffer reports that officials have located used furniture there that will be delivered to both the secretary and deputy secretary's office.

In a Facebook post last week, the Carsons denied allegations that they were responsible for the purchase of the $31,000 dining set. "I made it known that I was not happy about the prices being charged and that my preference would be to find something more reasonable". HUD's former chief administrative officer, Helen Foster, filed a complaint with the department's special counsel last fall charging that she was demoted in part because she warned other officials that the planned refurbishment would require congressional notification because it would exceed $5,000. "The table was ordered by the career staffers in charge of the building".

He acknowledged in his statement he had a $25,000 furniture budget, which matches the initial quote of $24,666 received in August, according to the emails.

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Ben Carson knew about $31000 dining set despite statements to the contrary