The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development spent more than $ 31,000 on a new table and chairs for the dining room adjacent to the office of Minister Ben Carson – revelations that just months after moving an official against high spending into a new role came within the department.
Helen Foster, the former high-ranking HUD official, has now filed a complaint that she was dismissed in retaliation for having expressed concerns over additional funding for the renovation of Carson's office and other departmental issues.
"It is a real shame that an agency to take care of the poorest of the poor is more concerned about what their office looks like," Foster told ABC News in an interview.
The day before President Donald Trump was sworn in, Assistant Secretary HUD Secretary Craig Clemmensen Foster said he should help Ben Carson's wife Candy Carson redecorate the secretariat of the HUD.
When Foster responded that there was a limit of $ 5,000, Clemmensen said that "the administration has always found ways in the past," the complaint said.
Federal law requires officials to notify the House and Senate appropriation committees of any furniture or decoration expenses higher than $ 5,000, according to an internal HUD note provided to ABC News. The memo also says that the rule applies to the "entire suite of offices" and any other space used by the person.
Foster's complaint states that over the next two months, Clemmensen repeatedly said she should "find money" to buy furniture for Carson's office, saying that "$ 5,000 would not even buy a decent chair."
A HUD spokesman said the agency would not comment on any specific allegations in the complaint, but said the HUD had spent no more than $ 5,000 to re-decorate Carson's office.
HUD Communications Director Raffi Williams said that the secretary brought furniture that the agency had stored to his office so that no additional costs were incurred and that she was mending the restaurant, which had been in the office since 1
Documents provided to ABC News by the HUD show that the agency spent $ 1,100 to try to fix the chairs in the dining room before buying the more expensive replacement food set.
The agency also spent about $ 3,400 to buy new curtains for Carson's office.
Foster says in her complaint that she received documents on October 24 that she was officially assigned to the position of Chief FOIA Officer.
On December 21, the Chief Administrative Officer's office placed a $ 31,561 order for the furniture, according to documents provided to ABC by the HUD.
The agency says the desk issue has no connection to Foster's move to a new role, adding that the decision to buy the table was made by the staff.
In Foster's complaint to the Office of Special Counsel in November, her lawyer wrote that she had been unfairly assigned to the "minor duties" as head of the Freedom of Information Act and forced to go to a political representative They turned to their position after refusing to approve additional spending and alerting them to a budget deficit that others intended to cover.
"I was simply put off for other reasons just because I did my job," Foster said, adding that she was worried that the move would make it easier to abuse taxpayer money.
Her lawyer Joseph Kaplan filed a copy of the complaint with ABC News.
Foster said she was recruited to the HUD in 2016 by her former Chief of the Treasury, who was a political appointee and when the new government took office. As Chief Administrative Officer, she oversaw the agency's day-to-day affairs outside policy decisions. Foster said she has no problems before transitioning to Trump administration.
Clemmensen is now listed as the director of a department that "focuses on ensuring the highest standards of ethics, management, and accountability in solving HUD's problematic characteristics," the website said. He did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The Office of Special Counsel investigates whistleblower complaints and misconduct within the federal government and is separate from the special adviser to the Ministry of Justice, who is responsible for investigating Russian interference in the election, Robert Mueller.
Carson was sworn in as HUD secretary on March 2, 2017. He has already come under fire because he said the government should not make public housing "too comfortable," as the New York Times reported visiting public housing in Ohio in May.
The agency's Inspector General examines questions about Carson's son, Ben Carson Jr., after attending a Baltimore hearing, despite concerns from attorneys.
The Trump budget proposed by the Trump government proposes a 18% cut in HUD funding, including a decrease in funds to help low-income people pay their rent. The budget of the department provides for an increase of funds by 1 percent.
Foster's complaint also raises other issues that reportedly occurred around the same time as the dispute over the decoration of funds.
It is said that Foster Clemmensen had been alerted in February that more than $ 10 million from the 2016 budget was mismanaged by the person who was previously in their position. She said that the budget deficit must be explained to the congressional allocation committees.
Foster reported the problem to several other officials, but several months later he was told that "the agency's top management is unwilling to report the US $ 10.8 million funding deficit to the financial staff," it said the complaint.
Foster's complaint states that Clemmensen asked her in the same month to submit two applications for freedom of information requesting information about a request from the HUD and submitted by the Democratic National Committee.
After she had sent him the petition, she claims that she was asked by a lawyer in the ethics department of the Legal Adviser's Office to treat the FOIA claims "discreetly" outside the normal FOIA procedure. The complaint says Foster was told that the decision was made by Maren Kasper, the head of the Trump Transition team, to the department and White House Adviser to the HUD.
ABC News has asked the White House and Kasper for an answer.
Foster was allegedly told by a lawyer in the HUD's General Counsel that her supervisor did not want Foster to see the answer to FOIA requests, "because (Foster) is a 'Democrat."
According to the complaint, Foster was finally allowed to handle the FOIA requests, but reported the problem to the Inspector General of the Division and said that she was concerned about her perceived party affiliation. She said that the Inspector General's office confirmed the basis of her complaint but did not initiate an investigation.
The HUD inspector's office said they would not acknowledge or deny Foster's complaints.
Williams, the communication director of the HUD, did not want to comment on the allegations in the complaint. HUD also noted that Foster was not fired and is still considered a senior executive. The agency said that it is not uncommon for such employees to turn into different roles.
Foster says another incident was not included in the complaint, in which she said she was asked to justify paying tax for a security system at Carson's house in Virginia. Career personnel had recommended that the secretary set up an alarm system in his home, but a HUD memo to ABC News said taxpayers' money could only be used for personal safety if an official was threatened or at risk or unable to do his job.
Foster said she could not justify the cost, but did not include it in her complaint because the Carsons decided to pay for the security system itself. HUD confirms that the pair made the purchase.
The complaint states that Foster has received positive reviews since starting her work at the HUD in July 2016 and that the only reason she was removed from her position as chief administrative officer was the issues she raised with regard to her expenses and against the she returned the favor as a whistleblower. Foster says she was "desperate" for a new job, but she said, "her reputation is ruined," and every interviewer asks why she was so quickly removed from her original role.
Foster asks for additional payment and damages to reimburse their attorney's fees after deleting all files related to their reallocation and to publicly apologize to the department.