A senior career official in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) charges that after Secretary Ben Carson took over as Secretary she was demoted for refusing to break rules limiting the cost of redecorations and for exposing a $10.8 million budget shortfall caused by “department irregularities,” according to The Guardian.
Helen Foster reported the budget shortfall to HUD’s chief operating officer, David Eagles, but was told last June that “agency leadership was unwilling to report the $10.8 million funding deficit” to the appropriations staff, who handle congressional approval for the funding of the department.
Foster said she warned HUD’s budget staff this would be illegal.
What might have possibly caused those budgeting irregularities? Surely a reverent man like Ben Carson wouldn’t abuse his position for his own benefit…would he?
The New York Times reveals that Ben Carson is so oblivious to the events around him that he was unaware that his wife Candy had spent $31,000 to buy a dining room table set for his office and has declared that he has “no intention” of sending it back.
Foster has now filed an official complaint with the Office of the Special Counsel, a watchdog for federal employees, in which she alleges HUD “violated laws protecting whistleblowers from reprisals,” according to The Guardian, which obtained a copy of her complaint.
Foster is demanding compensatory damages, a public apology and reinstatement as HUD’s chief administrative officer, a job she held under President Obama’s administration.
After her initial complaints, however, she learned that a position which had been vacant since the time of President George W. Bush as assistant secretary for administration was being filled by a Trump political appointee who took over most of her job duties.
Foster was eventually reassigned in July 2017 but was not given a job description until October. Even then, the document listed her pay grade and title but nothing else.
Foster eventually became the chief privacy and FOIA officer, but even there she ran into political interference.
She said in February, she became aware of FOIA requests that related to Lynne Patton, who had been an event planner for the Trump family in New York City, before being appointed by President Trump to a high-level job at HUD.
Foster was contacted by Kevin Simpson, an in-house attorney for HUD’s office of general counsel, who told her they had “been asked to discreetly handle these two FOIA requests outside of the normal FOIA processes.”
She was told that was decided by Maren Kasper, then HUD’s liaison to the White House,
“The information responsive to the FOIA request reveal that Ms. Patton wanted Ms. Kasper fired because she was critical of President Trump,” Foster wrote in her complaint.
Foster then heard from another HUD attorney that she was being sidelined because the Trump people thought she was a Democrat. She was a registered Republican at the time.
Lawsuit: HUD Official Helen Foster ‘Demoted’ for Restricting Ben Carson’s Expensive Office Makeover..was told “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair”; replaced by Trump appointee https://t.co/9nihpfOPay
— J.Doyle (@sibersong) February 27, 2018
Foster also rubbed some of the Trump crowd the wrong way shortly after Carson was appointed when she refused to co-operate with a request that originated with Carson’s wife Candy to obtain funds for redecoration of her husband’s office suite that would exceed the $5,000 allocated by the government.
Foster was told by acting HUD director Craig Clemmensen that extra funds had always been found in the past, and said that “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair.”
Foster complained to the HUD budget director about being asked to break the spending limit.
It was after that the Trump appointee was hired over her, and her duties were changed.
Joseph Kaplan, an attorney for Foster who filed the complaint with the OSC in November, said his client was “a long-time public servant who did well at her job, and now her reputation has been ruined.”
According to her complaint, shortly before Trump took over, Foster had been given an excellent performance review and even received a bonus of about 12 percent of her salary.
Now it will up to the OSC to investigate and then decide whether to seek a settlement or prosecute someone for failure to obey the law.
What this all illustrates is that after Trump arrived, agencies which had functioned well for many years, serving the best interests of the American people, were politicized and the rules were twisted to favor the insiders and their pals.
Carson, a doctor, and a former presidential candidate has not shown great skill at HUD in his first year but he has proven to be a Trump loyalist, which under this president carries a lot more weight than actually being competent.
Foster will face an uphill battle in this partisan atmosphere, but her story is not unique. Under Trump, the wheels of government do not move forward, but rather spin endlessly to serve the greedy, narrow-minded and borderline illegal agenda of the worst president in modern American history.