CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington—The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Inspector General should open an investigation into the department’s abuse of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process and expand her investigation into potentially undue influence by Secretary Ben Carson’s family, according to a request for investigation sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
According to reports, Carson has expended or attempted to expend funds that exceed the $5,000 congressional allotment for office decoration at the instigation of his wife, Candy Carson. At a time when HUD was suffering from a $10 million budget shortfall, an employee was urged to exceed the $5,000 spending limit congressionally appropriated for any redecoration and “to ‘find money’ for Mrs. Carson.” Secretary Carson also purportedly spent $31,000 in late 2017 for a new custom dining room set for his office suite.
On February 14th, CREW called on the HUD IG to launch a full investigation into Carson’s apparent violation of his ethics obligations by knowingly allowing his family to use his public office for private gain.
“At a time when services for the poor and homeless may be curtailed by budget cuts, it appears that the Carson family is inappropriately spending a great deal of money to make Secretary Carson’s office more comfortable,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “This is egregious and should be investigated.”
The IG further needs to investigate HUD’s treatment of FOIA requests under Carson. There have been reports of inappropriate political pressure used to affect the processing of a FOIA request seeking information that may have placed the agency and high-level agency officials in a negative light. Also, HUD has processed two of CREW’s FOIA requests in a manner that suggests political pressure may have played a role.
“The Inspector General needs to get to the bottom of what’s going on at HUD,” Bookbinder said. “There needs to be transparency, whether it reflects well on Secretary Carson or not.”