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2018-03-01 — theguardian.com

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.

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Simpson told her the office of general counsel had "been asked to discreetly handle these two FOIA requests outside of the normal FOIA processes", according to the complaint, and that this had been decided by Maren Kasper, then HUD's liaison to the White House. The requests apparently related to Lynne Patton, a former event planner for the Trump family, who controversially was given a job at HUD.

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