In late February, reports of a significant office makeover at the Department of Housing and Urban Development included the claim at $31,000 was spent on a custom dining set for Secretary Ben Carson’s office despite massive budget cuts to the department’s programs. A HUD spokeperson initially denied Carson knew anything about the purchase, and Carson himself claimed he was “surprised” by the news and was attempting to cancel the order. According to a new report by CNN, however, internal emails reveal Carson and his wife, Candy Carson, were directly involved in selecting the expensive dining set.
An August email from a career administration staffer, with the subject line “Secretary’s dining room set needed,” to Carson’s assistant refers to “printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out.”
When he was confronted with the discrepancy on Tuesday, HUD spokesperson Raffi Williams said, “When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles.” Even so, the emails obtained by CNN reportedly “show discussions about the dining set going back to last May” when two of Carson’s aides initiated the email exchange over safety concerns with the existing furniture:
“Could you all get the dining room chairs tighten up?” one of the aides wrote. “Most of them are loose and wiggling.”
Another called the chairs “fairly precarious” and wrote that she wanted to “avoid someone having an accident (and embarrassment!) should the chair collapse beneath them.”
Regardless of the office’s original intent regarding the repairing or replacing of its current furniture, the emails reveal that Secretary Carson, his team, and his wife — who was directly addressed in one of the correspondences — were directly involved in the process leading up to the $31,000 dining set’s purchase. You can read more about the emails at CNN.