Morale at HUD Low Amid Carson Table Scandal

Employee morale at the Department of Housing and Urban Development has fallen sharply under the leadership of Ben Carson, according to a new investigative report.

Alec MacGillis, a politics and government reporter for non-profit journalism organization ProPublica, told NPR that after a boost in enthusiasm under the Obama administration, HUD has seen a sense of aimlessness creep in under Carson — a retired neurosurgeon and former opponent of President Trump during the 2016 GOP primary process.

“It’s the sense that, my goodness, what does the Trump administration think of us as a department if they would put in charge of us someone who has zero experience in the field that we work in?” MacGillis said in an interview with NPR’s Ailsa Chang. 


“That’s what a HUD employee said to me,” MacGillis continued. “It’s as if I had just walked out of this door one day and declared that I was going to become a nurse.”

Trump’s pick of Carson certainly raised eyebrows over the secretary’s lack of experience in public service and housing, and his tenure at the top spot has been marked with a variety of controversies. Carson himself asked for an independent investigation into his family’s actions with HUD; his son and wife have come under criticism for taking active roles at the department despite not officially having jobs or titles.

And that was before the infamous $31,000 dining-room set flap in recent works. Carson was forced to cancel the pricey order for his offices at HUD after a public backlash, though he denied knowledge of the table before it generated media attention.

This particular controversy was out of character for Carson, according to MacGillis, who pointed out that HUD has largely escaped the claims of extravagant spending that doomed former Department of Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price — and continue to dog Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt.

“Of all the problems I discovered at HUD in my reporting over the past year, the overspending by Ben Carson was not one of them,” MacGillis told NPR. “This is someone who is still taking commercial flights, sitting in the middle seat in coach — unlike a lot of the other cabinet secretaries who are flying around in private jets.”

HUD’s crisis is largely an existential one in MacGillis’s view, as the agency has shrunken considerably since its creation as a Great Society program.

“HUD has definitely struggled with morale over the years, largely I think because it’s just fallen such a long way from its grand ambitions of its founding back in the ‘60s,” he said.

Read the full interview at Wyoming Public Media.

Written by Alex Spanko

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  • What kind of reporting is expected from a liberal reporter anyway? Acclaim for Secretary Carson? This insidious attack is in harmony with other liberal attacks against the Administration.

    • Absolutely. This is the entrenched crowd that allowed a massive default pool to build for lack of a basic financial assessment. Carson has brought some common sense to the table which seems to have been missing under the prior administration.

      • James,

        I am a little lost when you say : “This is the entrenched crowd that allowed a massive default pool to build for lack of a basic financial assessment.”

        Yet it is also the HUD of the Obama Administration that gave us the draconian financial assessment we “enjoy” today.

        Some hailed LESA as the means to give us back a large portion of the new endorsements that financial assessment might take away. That is like saying what the Democrats claimed when they gave us H4P that due to the increase in new business they opened up needed to be offset by capping origination fees. Both claims turned out to be a way of losing HECM demand.

  • I have to agree with George Owens, it is so obvious! However, was Ben Carson the right pick for the position? That is a question lurking about.

    I don’t think we have seen a lot of common sense decisions made with the HECM over the past year. I have not seen any major budget cuts or should I say the elimination of waste occur yet. Yes, I will give Ben credit, some of the waste has been eliminated but no where near enough.

    The biggest problem that I have seen is no major legislative improvements have made since Ben Carson has been there. October 2nd sure has flaws in it!

    Time will tell, Ben Carson is a brilliant man, my hopes are that he will get on tract and do what is right for the department and the country. Especially for our seniors!

    John A. Smaldone

    • John,

      The Democrats won’t give him the President’s nominee for FHA Commissioner. If Mr. Montgomery is half the leader he was 9 years ago, I think you will begin to see the difference, leaving Secretary Carson to do what he is best at, administrating HUD and FHA.

  • That “table” the media was so interested in, was a table for the general lobby area where the entire staff of various offices were to use.

    The media, of course, left-out this detail in their reporting; they tried to make it look as if this table was to be located in Secretary Carson’s personal office for his exclusive use only.

    • Ed,

      How hard is it to move that table from the lobby to the Secretary’s office? Then again why not just have it assembled in the Secretary’s office?

      In DC things have a way to be “repurposed” in no time at all, even moments before it is delivered.

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