Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement that he was 'as surprised as anyone' to find out that an order had been placed for a $31,000 dining set for his office.
Carson has angered White House officials, according to CNN, over fallout from accusations first reported in the Guardian that a senior career official had been demoted for refusing to spend more than the mandated $5,000 on office redecorating.
The official, Helen Foster, had reported to a watchdog for federal workers that she was told, '$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair,' after informing her bosses of the legal cap for improvements for the HUD secretary's suite.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson (left) has come under fire for his agency's use of taxpayer dollars to fund a $31,000 dining room set for his office. His wife Candy Carson (second from left) helped with the redecorating efforts, he said
In a statement, Ben Carson explained that the dining room furniture found at the HUD headquarters (pictured) in Washington, D.C., was 30 to 50 years old and needed to be replaced. He also said he had scoffed at the cost
He and his wife Candy used Twitter to craft their original response to the scandal, which started when the Guardian broke a story about how long-serving HUD worker had been asked to find more than the mandated $5,000 for office redecorating
Foster's complaint letter alleged that on the day before President Trump's swearing-in ceremony, she was asked by acting HUD head Craig Clemmensen to help Candy Carson, the nominee's wife, find funds to use to redecorate Ben Carson's soon-to-be office.
When Foster told Clemmensen that the statutory limit was $5,000, the official told her that administrations had 'always found ways around that in the past,' according to the Guardian.
Several weeks later on February 10, 2017, Foster was told by Clemmensen again 'to "find money" for Mrs. Carson,' the complaint alleges, and that '$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair.'
Foster then complained to HUD's budget director about being asked to break the spending cap.
Foster claims she was demoted and replaced by a political appointee for her protests.
CNN then reported that $31,000 was spent on a dining room set, citing federal records and a whistleblower.
On Wednesday night, the Carsons responded to the reports from their joint Twitter account.
'Thank you to so many who have expressed concern for me and my family over the latest accusations,' the @RealBenCarson account tweeted.
Before I actually occupied my office, I was told what previous secretaries did when they redecorated. I was asked what I wanted to do.
I visited the basement where previously used furniture was kept and my wife visited as well. We selected some chairs and made some minor changes. Additionally drapes that had previously hung in my office were brought back and blinds were put on the windows. The total redecoration cost was less than $3500. This is considerably less than the historical norm.
Dining room redecoration:
The secretary's dining room is used for business luncheons with a wide variety of people and groups. The furniture is 30 to 50 years old and is very worn. It has also been