Washington (CNN) – Newly released emails cast doubt on claims by Secretary Ben Carson and his spokesman that he had little or no involvement in the purchase of a $31,000 furniture set for his Department of Housing and Urban Development dining room.
Emails show Carson and his wife selected the furniture themselves.
An August email from a career administration staffer, with the subject line “Secretary’s dining room set needed,” to Carson’s assistant refers to “printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out.”
The documents were released following a Freedom of Information Act request from American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group led by former Obama administration officials, and offer a snapshot into how the agency acquired the furniture.
HUD spokesman Raffi Williams initially denied the Carsons had any involvement in the dining set selection.
“Mrs. Carson and the secretary had no awareness that the table was being purchased,” he told CNN last month.
A HUD spokesman went further at the time, blaming the purchase on an unnamed career staffer. “The secretary did not order a new table. The table was ordered by the career staffers in charge of the building,” he said.
A few days later, Carson personally addressed the issue, telling CNN in a statement that he was “surprised” by the more than $31,000 price tag and was having the order canceled. The company confirmed a few days after CNN reported the purchase that the agency officially canceled the order on March 1.
A quote for the dining room furniture, released as part of the FOIA, came in at $24,666, just under budget.
The career administration staffer sent the quote to Carson’s office, specifically Carson’s chief of staff and his executive assistant, casting further doubt on the agency’s assertion that the purchase was made entirely by career staff.
Four months later, receipts show HUD moved forward with the purchase. The final bill came to nearly $7,000 more than the August quote, due to delivery and installation charges, as well as a small price increase for the upholstered chairs.
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