Ethics Watchdog Sues HUD for Emails from Carson Family, Lynne Patton, Trump Organization

Non-partisan ethics watchdog American Oversight filed a sweeping new lawsuit against the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today seeking emails and other documents from HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Carson’s wife and son – both of whom have been active in department business – and senior political appointees including Lynne Patton.

News reports over the past several weeks have raised serious questions about the role that Secretary Carson has allowed his family members to play at the department as well as the influence wielded by Patton, the former Trump family employee who now oversees HUD’s largest regional office.

“The $31,000 dining set was just the tip of the iceberg. Every time we uncover something new about how Ben Carson is running HUD, it raises more red flags,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “Two weeks ago, we learned that Ben Carson’s son was effectively working at HUD in violation of nepotism rules, last week it was the taxpayer-funded office makeover, and who knows what scandal is going to come out this week.”

American Oversight’s new lawsuit asks a federal judge to order HUD to comply with five separate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests:

  • Records of travel arrangements, calendar entries, briefing materials, and office records relating to Lacena “Candy” Carson
  • Carson family communications with Lynne Patton and select HUD appointees
  • External emails sent by Lynne Patton and select HUD appointees
  • White House communications and calendar entries for Lynne Patton and select HUD appointees
  • Lynne Patton’s communications with the Trump family or Trump organization

After news broke last week that HUD had spent tens of thousands of dollars on new furniture for Secretary Carson’s office suite, reports indicated that Secretary Carson’s wife, Lacena “Candy” Carson, was actively involved in the taxpayer-funded redecoration effort. American Oversight filed a separate FOIA lawsuit last week seeking records of any expenditures related to office upgrades or renovations at HUD.

Reporting by the Guardian and other outlets also suggested that Lynne Patton, who previously worked for the Trump organization and helped to plan Eric Trump’s wedding, was involved in the decision to demote and reassign a HUD employee who pushed back on Carson’s expensive furniture requests.

Patton’s role at HUD has drawn scrutiny in the past. Despite having no previous experience in federal housing policy, Patton was assigned to lead the HUD office overseeing the New York and New Jersey region – an area in which both the Trump and Kushner families have significant real estate investments that could be affected by HUD policy.

Last year, American Oversight obtained and posted a copy of Patton’s official resume on which she falsely claimed to have graduated from Yale University and Quinnipiac University’s law school.

Separately, emails obtained by American Oversight last month via FOIA litigation revealed that Patton frequently emailed with Ben Carson Jr. – who is not a HUD employee – in the weeks before an official HUD tour of Baltimore that Carson Jr. was helping to organize. Those emails also showed the younger Carson using his position to connect his personal business associates with senior officials at HUD including Patton.

See the complaint below: