Weird That Ben Carson And The Wedding Planner Are Making Such A Hot Mess At HUD!
Who could have predicted such a shitshow at HUD under the trusty leadership of a narcoleptic nuerosurgeon and a Trump party planner? Well, who besides anyone with a pulse. Things have been too quiet for too long at HUD, but now it's all starting to hit the fan. So let's walk through The Guardian's story on Helen Foster, a career civil servant who was just trying to do her damn job when the Ben and Candy Carson Show came to town. It's a doozy!
"$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair!"
Did you think those Ben'n'Jesus paintings gracing the walls of the Carsons' Maryland home could be had for $50 on any boardwalk in America? Well, that just shows what you know about FINE ART, Mister! Candy Carson knows from art, and even before the inauguration, she was planning to redecorate her husband's office in his signature style.
Mrs. Carson had picked out the perfect nativity scene carved out of driftwood with her and Dr. Ben as Mary and Joseph. But then Helen Foster, the chief HUD administrator, insisted that the law caps redecorating costs at $5,000. Well! How many Jesus paintings can you buy with only $5,000 in taxpayer money?
"Five thousand dollars will not even buy a decent chair," acting HUD director Craig Clemmensen told Foster, as he pressured her to find the money somewhere in the budget of the agency charged with providing housing for the nation's poor. It was an auspicious start!
What does "outside of the normal FOIA processes” mean, exactly?
Hey, remember when Trump appointed the wedding planner with the faked up resume to be regional administrator for public housing in New York? You know, Lynne Patton, the lady who got ugly on Twitter with sainted April Ryan. Well, before she got that promotion, she was White House liaison to HUD. And because Patton was wildly unqualified even for that first job, she made one or two errors, such as allegedly trying to get civil servants fired for being Democrats who didn't like Trump. Oooopsie!
So when they got a FOIA query for documents relating to Patton's efforts to purge fifth columnists, the White House asked HUD "to discreetly handle these two FOIA requests outside of the normal FOIA processes." Whatever that means. Only Helen Foster, who was in charge of FOIA fulfillment, wasn't playing dice. Because that would be ILLEGAL, just like firing career civil servants for their political affiliation.
Accounting, it's more of an art than a science, right?
By spring of 2017, the Trump flunkies were royally pissed that mean old Helen Foster wouldn't let them turn HUD into a sumptuous palace full of courtiers for God's Holy Housing Healer Ben Carson. And then there was the little matter of a $10.8 million hole in HUD's accounting for 2016. Now normally they'd have been thrilled to shout about Bad 'Bama Budgets. But last May Trump was proposing to cut HUD's funding by 22%. And you can hardly tell Congress that you're short $10.8 million the same day you tell them a $6.8 billion haircut would be just fine.
[Foster] said she reported the shortfall to David Eagles, HUD’s chief operating officer, but was told in June that “agency leadership is unwilling to report the $10.8m funding deficit” to appropriations staff, who deal with congressional approval for the department’s funding. Foster said she warned HUD’s budget staff this would be illegal.
All the best people!
At that point, Ben Carson's posse suddenly remembered that under George W. Bush there had been an Assistant Secretary for Administration who got to boss the administrator around, so Foster got a new boss! Coincidentally, she also got an exciting new promotion to ... something.
Foster was eventually reassigned in July 2017, but was not sent a job description for her new role until October. That document, she said, stated her job title, pay grade, and nothing else.
You will be FOR SHOCKED to know that Foster has filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint with the office of special counsel (not Mueller, another one). A copy of this complaint leaked to the Guardian, which used it as a source for this story.
Godspeed, Helen Foster! Take 'em all down!
Follow your FDF on Twitter!
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.