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keeping it in the family

HUD lawyers warned Ben Carson about letting his son get involved in department business

Lawyers with the Housing and Urban Development department warned HUD Secretary Ben Carson that by having his son, businessman Ben Carson Jr., actively involved in organizing a listening tour in Baltimore last summer, he was risking violating federal ethics rules, The Washington Post reports.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Post obtained a July 6, 2017, memo written by Linda M. Cruciani, HUD's deputy general counsel for operations, who said she had been told by HUD officials they were concerned about Carson Jr. and his wife, Merlynn, inviting people to tour events. Theses officials believed the Carsons "may be doing business with these entities or may be interested in doing business with these entities," Cruciani said, and she also "expressed my concern that this gave the appearance that the secretary may be using his position for his son's private gain."

HUD officials say that since becoming a member of President Trump's Cabinet, Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, has leaned heavily on his wife, Candy, and his son and daughter-in-law. All three ended up attending several events on Carson's listening tour of Baltimore housing projects, despite Cruciani's warning, including closed-door sessions on housing policy, a person with knowledge of the matter told the Post.

Officials also told Cruciani that Carson Jr. and his wife invited the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, to an event, and federal records show that about three months later, CMS awarded a $485,000 contract to a consulting company called Myriddian, without a competitive bidding process. Myriddian's CEO is Merlynn Carson, and Ben Carson Jr. is a board member. A spokesman said Verma did not attend any tour events, and in a statement, Ben Carson said, "My family, or people with relationships with my family, have never influenced any decision at HUD." Read more about Cruciani's concerns and Carson's dependence on his family at The Washington Post.