A senior career official says she was demoted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and replaced by a Trump appointee after refusing to break the law to approve an expensive redecoration of secretary Ben Carson's office.
Helen Foster claims she faced retaliation for exposing a $10 million budget shortfall and for protesting that she was prevented from handling sensitive information because she was believed to be a Democrat, reported The Guardian.
The 47-year-old Foster filed a complaint with the office of special counsel, which is not related to Robert Mueller's investigation, alleging that HUD officials violated whistleblower laws, and she seeks a public apology, compensatory damages and reinstatement as the department's chief administrative officer.
Foster notified department officials that planned improvements to Carson's suite at HUD headquarters exceeded federal spending limits, and she says colleagues told her “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair.”
The official says she had been asked a week before Trump's inauguration by acting HUD director Craig Clemmensen to help Carson’s wife, Candy, get funding to redecorate the incoming secretary's office.
Foster said she told the acting director about a statutory spending limit of $5,000, but she said Clemmensen told her previous administrations had found ways to flout the law.
Clemmensen repeatedly ordered her to "‘find money’ for Mrs. Carson,” according to the complaint, and Foster said she eventually complained to HUD's budget director.
Foster oversaw the department's Freedom of Information Act office as part of her duties, but she complains that she'd been barred from handling a pair of requests related to a former event planner for the Trump family who had been appointed to a job with HUD.