Helen Foster, former chief administrative officer for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), has filed a complaint against the agency alleging that she was demoted for refusing to “find money” beyond the legal $5,000 limit for redecorating Secretary Carson’s office. Secretary Carson assumed office in March 2017, having previously disavowed any intention to join President Trump’s cabinet, citing his own lack of government experience.
According to Foster’s sworn complaint to the Office of Special Counsel, the independent agency that investigates whistleblower complaints made by government employees, HUD’s Acting Secretary approached Foster in February 2017 to request that she assist Mrs. Carson in getting “access to funds” to redecorate her husband’s office. When Foster reminded the Acting Secretary that the legal limit for redecoration was $5,000, she asserts that she was repeatedly pressured to make more money available. Foster refused to do so and, despite receiving stellar performance reviews, was demoted and reassigned to oversee privacy and FOIA requests.
Foster’s complaint also asserts that she pushed back against a request to have HUD fund a private security system for Secretary Carson’s family home in Northern Virginia. To support her position, Foster pointed to a memo written by HUD’s chief financial officer, which stated that “as a general rule, appropriated funds are not available for the personal expenses of government employees, including agency heads.” Because available information suggested that Secretary Carson did not face a security threat sufficient to justify the use of appropriated funds, Foster refused to write a memo justifying the expenditure. Ultimately, Secretary Carson paid for his own security system.
The Office of Special Counsel contacted Foster for an interview last week. The Office has 120 days to determine whether to launch an official investigation into her allegations.
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