Safety is expensive.
Trump Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson is still trying to explain why he forced taxpayers to buy him a $31,000 dining set for his office. His new reason? The old set was “dangerous.”
At a House Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday, Carson was asked about his office’s failure to notify Congress about the extravagant purchase.
“It’s my understanding that the facilities people felt that the dining room table was actually dangerous, and it was a facilities issue, not a decorating issue,” Carson told ranking member Rep. David Price (D-NC).
“I don’t think there is a notification requirement for facilities issues as there is with decorating issues,” the secretary added.
He did not elaborate on why the old dining set was supposedly a hazard or why it needed to be replaced with a new set that cost $31,000.
Price pointed out that emails released via a FOIA request show his staff was aware of the reporting requirement, and Carson claimed not to have known anything about it.
“Remember,” Carson said, “I was dealing with running an organization with virtually no secretarial staff.”
According to emails from Carson’s own staff, though, the law requires advance notice to Congress for “costs of furnishings or redecoration for agency heads in excess of $5,000.”
The assertion that the old table was “dangerous” may provide technical cover failing to comply with the reporting requirement. But it does not change the fact that his staff clearly believed the purchase required advance notice to Congress.
It also does not change the fact that there is an ample universe of perfectly safe dining room sets that cost less than $31,000, regardless of the White House spin that $31,000 only sounds like a lot of money but actually isn’t.
Carson’s attempt to blame this monumental failure on anyone but himself is typical of an administration that never takes responsibility for anything.