Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson claimed he was "as surprised as anyone" to find out his office had ordered a $31,000 dining set, although emails released following a Freedom of Information Act request by liberal watchdog American Oversight appear to show Carson and his wife personally selected the furniture, CNN reports. An email from a career staffer with the subject line "Secretary's dining room set needed," sent in August to Carson's assistant, references "printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out."
A HUD spokesman previously blamed an anonymous staffer for the purchase after reports about the $31,000 table, hutch, and 10 chairs made headlines. "The secretary did not order a new table," the spokesman said. "The table was ordered by the career staffers in charge of the building." Carson subsequently canceled the order.
When HUD spokesman Raffi Williams was asked about the emails Tuesday, he said: "When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles." Emails between a scheduler and Carson's wife, Candy Carson, clearly discuss redecorating as well as a deadline to use money allocated for that fiscal year. Ben Carson previously told CNN there was "a $25,000 budget that had to be used by a certain time or it would be lost" and the dining room set's quote was for $24,666 in the emails before the final bill.
"Below is the price quote for all of the dining room furniture. I think this is a very reasonable price and the funds are available," wrote one career administration staffer in an email to Carson's chief of staff and his executive assistant. The staffer added: "We also have a justification for the cost (as you know, the furniture hasn't been changed since 1988) so this should not be a problem."