The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s internal watchdog cleared Secretary Ben Carson of wrongdoing for his plan to purchase a $31,000 dining set without notifying Congress.
The department’s inspector general wrote in a report published Thursday that while the money was obligated, “HUD did not ultimately purchase this furniture, and the procurement did not result in the expenditure of any departmental funds because it was canceled.”
The report notes that Carson had it canceled “in response to media reports.”
The decision comes after HUD spokespeople initially denied Carson’s involvement in selecting the furniture last year. Carson then requested that the order be canceled, saying in a statement that “I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered.”
The set comprised a table, sideboard and breakfront all in mahogany, as well as 10 mahogany chairs with a blue velvet finish – costing well beyond the legal $5,000 limit to renovate Carson’s office. It was intended for the secretary’s dining room at department headquarters, to replace a set that was in a state of disrepair, a department official said last year.
CNN then reported last March that Carson and his wife had selected the dining set, citing emails between staffers in which Carson’s assistant refers to “printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out.”
When pressed on the decision during a House subcommittee hearing later that month, Carson said, “I left it with my wife” – Candy – who selected “a style and a color” of the furniture set.
“We did not find sufficient evidence to substantiate allegations of misconduct on the part of Secretary Carson in connection with this procurement,” the report released on Thursday stated.
“We found no evidence indicating that either Secretary or Mrs. Carson exerted improper influence on any departmental employee in connection with the procurement,” the report added.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Office of Inspector General told CNN that “we believe the findings of the report released today speaks for itself.”
The spokesperson emphasized – “for the sake of clarity” – that the Inspector General’s Office is “not making any recommendations to the Department as a result of the evidence gathered in this investigation because we found no evidence of misconduct, and because the Department is working to address the legal ramifications of the dining-room-furniture procurement and to prevent future appropriations-law violations.”