Based on new reporting about the operations of the agency, CREW requested an expanded investigation by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Inspector General into possible widespread violations of the Freedom of Information Act by HUD, and undue influence by HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s family.
Despite not being employed by HUD, Carson’s wife is reportedly a regular presence around the agency, and undertook an expensive redecoration of her husband’s office. Helen Foster, a senior HUD official was demoted from her position after refusing to authorize funding for the project.
HUD was suffering from a budget shortfall of over $10 million, yet Mrs. Carson sought to spend $31,000 in redecorations, including a custom dining room set. The redesign violates the Antideficiency Act quite significantly, which mandates that any spending above $5,000 requires the “advance notice to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations.” Foster was urged to ignore the spending cap, and “find the money” for Mrs. Carson.
Foster also oversaw HUD’s FOIA office before her demotion, and reportedly faced political pressure from HUD counsel to handle FOIA requests outside of the normal process if they would portray the agency or its officials in a negative light.
CREW requests that the Inspector General expand the investigation previously requested to include the role of Carson’s family in the agency, and apparent abuse of the FOIA process. Both of these new revelations present serious ethics and transparency concerns.