Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson on Thursday ordered his agency to cancel an order for a $31,000 taxpayer-funded custom dining room set for his personal office following massive public backlash, insisting he was “as surprised as anyone” that the furniture had been ordered.
“I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered,” Carson said in a statement. “I have requested that the order be canceled. We will find another solution for the furniture replacement.”
Carson said he might choose a different dining room set, but that his “preference” would be a more “reasonable” price tag.
“My wife also looked at catalogs and wanted to be sure that the color of the chair fabric of any set that was chosen matched the rest of the decor,” he said. “I 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’s statement comes days after a report surfaced on Tuesday that HUD had spent $31,000 last year on a new dining room set for Carson’s office, which included a custom hardwood table, chairs and a hutch.
A HUD spokesman told The New York Times that Carson “didn’t know the table had been purchased.”
“In general, the secretary does want to be as fiscally prudent as possible with the taxpayers’ money,” HUD spokesman Raffi Williams said.
The Hill notes:
However, HUD staff member Helen Foster claimed she was replaced in her role because she refused to find a way around a $5,000 limit for redecorating Carson’s office.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) announced on Wednesday that his committee will probe Carson’s “excessive spending” on the redecoration of his office.
HUD also reportedly spent $165,000 of taxpayer money on “lounge furniture” for its D.C. office as Trump proposes cutting $6.8 billion from the department’s low-income assistance programs that help the poor and homeless.
HUD signed contracts for the furniture with an Indiana-based furniture retailer last September, according to The Guardian.