A spokesperson for the Department of Housing and Urban Development told TPM Thursday that Secretary Ben Carson had ordered the agency to rescind an order for $31,561 worth of dining room furniture.
“At the request of the Secretary, the agency is working to rescind the order for the dining room set,” HUD spokesperson Raffi Williams told TPM in an email.
In a statement reported by CNN, Carson said that after trying unsuccessfully to fix his office’s aging dining room furniture, he was told it “was beyond repair and needed to be replaced.”
“We were told there was a $25,000 budget that had to be used by a certain time or it would be lost,” Carson added later. He noted that he “made it known that I was not happy about the prices being charged and that my preference would be to find something more reasonable.”
Carson continued: “I left this matter alone to concentrate on bigger issues. I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered. I have requested that the order be canceled. We will find another solution for the furniture replacement.”
HUD spokesperson Raffi Williams told the New York Times when the paper first reported on the $31,561 expense that while Carson “didn’t know the table had been purchased,” he did not find the cost excessive and he didn’t plan on returning the furniture.
The saga began when HUD employee Helen Foster alleged that she was demoted in retaliation after insisting that office decoration expenses costing more than $5,000 required congressional approval.
In an email to TPM Wednesday, a HUD spokesperson said in part that “[i]t’s not unusual for Senior Executive Service (SES) employees to be rotated” and called the furniture a “building expense.”
TPM published photos on Wednesday, provided by HUD, of the current furniture the department was spending $31,561 to replace. CNN on Thursday published details on the new furniture, just prior to HUD’s announcement that it would rescind the order.