The Housing and Urban Development official who first raised concerns about Secretary Ben Carson’s push to redecorate his office alleged Wednesday that she has been forced to resign.
Helen Foster, in a sharply worded letter to Carson and HUD Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, said she was demoted as chief administrative officer and called a liar by the secretary on social media after criticizing his redecorating expenses and saying that more than $10 million in taxpayer funds had been “grossly mismanaged.”
“Even though I reported all of these issues appropriately, through the HUD chain of command, and with documentation, I was demoted into a made-up ‘do-nothing’ job with no duties or responsibilities by your direct reports,” Foster wrote. “A full year has [passed] since, and I remain in the same spurious position with no official duties.”
Her letter also accuses HUD officials of trying to discredit her publicly after she raised the issues with officials. A department spokesman declined to comment on Foster’s allegations because the issues involve personnel matters and are under review by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
Foster filed a complaint with the special counsel’s office late last year, saying she was demoted in part for warning officials that the redecorations planned would require congressional notification since their cost would exceed $5,000. Despite that threshold, she alleged staffers had instructed her to “find money” for the effort.
Documents released by the left-leaning group American Oversight revealed HUD staffers vetted different furniture options for Carson while soliciting input from his wife, Candy.
In emails released under the Freedom of Information Act, Foster wrote to colleagues about being forced to respond to “endless questions about why I won’t fund more than the $5000 limit” for redecorating the office.
The push to redo Carson’s office after President Trump’s inauguration — even before the secretary took office — came under congressional scrutiny. On his social media accounts, Carson described the accompanying criticism as “character attacks” that were “without evidence or substantiation.”
Carson defended those remarks when testifying before Congress in March, a move Foster described in her letter as “devastating to me, and to my career prospects as a public servant.”
“From my perspective, this was the head of my agency, my ultimate boss, and a cabinet-level official, calling me a liar in public,” she wrote.
Carson testified that he did not know who had alleged the redecorating effort violated the federal Anti-Deficiency Act and that he did not retaliate against anyone.