Exclusive: Senior housing officer says she was replaced by a Trump appointee and told ‘$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair’

ppointee and told ‘$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair’

A senior career official in the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has alleged that she was demoted and replaced with a Donald Trump appointee after refusing to break the law by funding an expensive redecoration of Ben Carson’s office.

Helen Foster said she was told “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair” after informing her bosses this was the legal price limit for improvements to the HUD secretary’s suite at the department’s Washington headquarters.

Foster, 47, claimed that she also faced retaliation for exposing a $10m budget shortfall, and for protesting when she was barred from handling a pair of sensitive freedom of information act (FOIA) requests relating to Trump apparently because she was perceived to be a Democrat.

A copy of a complaint letter filed by Foster to a watchdog for federal employees was obtained by the Guardian. It alleges that HUD violated laws protecting whistleblowers from reprisals. Foster is seeking a public apology, compensatory damages and reinstatement as HUD’s chief administrative officer.

Trump last September nominated Suzanne Israel Tufts, a veteran Republican operative from his home county of Queens, New York, as HUD’s assistant secretary for administration, a position that Foster said subsumed her job. Foster was moved to the role of chief privacy and FOIA officer. Tufts was confirmed by the US Senate.

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