In late February, reports of a significant office makeover at the Department of Housing and Urban Development included the claim at $31,000 was spent on a custom dining set for Secretary Ben Carson's office despite massive budget cuts to the department's programs.
Carson and his spokesman Raffi Williams repeatedly claimed that the Hud secretary was not involved in a decision to make the purchase, after the Guardian revealed a controversy at the department around the furnishing of his office.
"I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered", Carson wrote. Mr. Carson later said he was "surprised" by price and requested that the order be cancelled.
A HUD spokesman denied that the Carsons had been involved in the purchase when CNN first reported the story.
"We also have a justification for the cost (as you know, the furniture hasn't been changed since 1988) so this should not be a problem", she added.
Another email released to the group showed Helen Foster, then Hud's chief administrative officer, stating more than a year ago that she had been "asked about "finding" additional money for furnishing the Secretary's office". "I was subsequently told that it was beyond fix and needed to be replaced", the post states.
"I don't think it even crossed her mind, this separate room", he said of the decorating plans. It also reveals that senior HUD staff members scrambled to figure out ways to reconcile Candy Carson's demands for major upgrades to the outdated office suite with federal laws that prohibit expenditures of more than $5,000 on office furniture without congressional approval.
Emails show Carson and his wife selected the furniture themselves.
The department received an estimate for repairs at $1,100, but the repairs weren't made because the HUD scheduling office emailed Candy Carson for her input on new furniture in early August.
"I briefly looked at catalogs for dining furniture and was shocked by the cost of the furniture", Carson said. The quote for the furniture picked out by Carson and his wife totaled $24,666, according to the emails.
One email chain shows serving cart options were approved by "leadership" but doesn't specify who made the request.
The emails contain vivid descriptions of the "wobbling" chairs and table.
One email sent on August 29, 2017, by Aida Rodriguez, an administrative officer in the secretary's office, summarizes that $24,666 quote as "a very reasonable price", adding "the funds are available".
Revelations of the inconsistencies come just weeks after Secretary Carson used a biblical reference - Psalms 91 - in his defense: "Under his wings you will find refuge".