A HUD employee has accused Secretary Ben Carson of conducting a "witch hunt" against a whistleblower and painted a picture of chaos and mismanagement that could hinder a congressional investigation into the agency.
In a Tuesday email to Carson and other HUD officials, Marcus Smallwood defended Helen Foster, who has accused Carson of seeking to mismanage agency funds.
"I have participated in the silencing of employees trying to protect them from the malicious activities of senior leadership at HUD," wrote Smallwood, director of records and information management at HUD. He accused Carson of launching a "smear campaign" against Foster.
"It was her job to be the conscience of HUD and ask the tough questions," he said. Foster was demoted after raising questions about the agency's handling of Freedom of Information Act requests and Carson's spending on office furniture.
Smallwood said he lacks confidence that HUD can "truthfully" provide evidence being requested by the House Oversight Committee "because there has been a concerted effort to stop email traffic regarding these matters."
HUD spokesman Raphael Williams did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Smallwood confirmed the contents of the emailed letter to POLITICO. Joseph Kaplan, Foster's lawyer, circulated the letter Tuesday.
In the letter, Smallwood asked Carson to apologize to Foster and make a public statement that HUD employees follow the law without fear of retribution.
In a formal complaint to the Office of Special Counsel, Foster accused HUD senior officials of pressuring her to "find money" to spend on redecorating Carson's office over the $5,000 limit required by law. HUD has denied the accusations and released information and photos suggesting that Foster was a problem employee.
After Foster's complaint was made public, HUD revealed that agency staff had spent $31,000 on furniture for the secretary's office. That order was made without Carson's knowledge, a HUD spokesman said, and is now being canceled.