An employee of the Department of Housing and Urban Development has accused Secretary Ben Carson of conducting a “witch hunt” against a whistleblower.
In an email to Carson and other HUD officials, Marcus Smallwood, director of records and information management in the department’s office of administration, defended HUD official Helen Foster, who raised concerns over lavish spending in the agency.
“I have participated in the silencing of employees trying to protect them from the malicious activities of senior leadership at HUD,” Smallwood wrote in the email, which was obtained by Politico. Smallwood accused Carson of launching a “smear campaign” against Foster, who was HUD’s chief administrative officer but was demoted after raising concerns about the department’s intention to spend more than $31,000 on furniture for Carson’s office – tens of thousands more than is authorized by statute.
“It was her job to be the conscience of HUD and ask the tough questions,” Smallwood wrote.
Responding to Smallwood’s accusations, HUD spokesman Raphael Williams told Politico that Foster had a pending case against the department, and that HUD “has a policy of not commenting on pending cases.”
Smallwood also referenced a recent Facebook post on a page belonging to Carson and his wife. The post said that “character attacks on us have increased in an attempt to claim that a scandal has occurred” over the intended furniture purchase. Smallwood told Carson that he should personally apologize to Foster “as you have now participated in a smear campaign.” Since Foster initiated her complaint, HUD has denied her allegations and intimated that she was a problem employee.
However, the agency was forced to admit that it had spent more than $31,000 on a dining room set for Carson’s office. The agency has since said that it has canceled the order, and that the order was made without Carson’s knowledge.