Three more people lost their jobs at Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (Hud) on Monday, amid a widening ethics controversy.
The three people, one of them a former White House staffer, worked as aides in the office of Hud’s chief information officer, Johnson Joy, who was removed from his job last week over reports published by the Guardian.
Two sources at Hud said the aides had their contracts terminated unexpectedly by Accel Corporation, a Maryland-based private employment agency that supplied Joy’s office with multiple staff.
But Raffi Williams, a spokesman for Hud, said in an email: “The funds for the contract under which they worked have been fully expended. They were not terminated.”
Accel’s arrangement with Hud is being examined by the department’s inspector general and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which oversees federal workers’ employment rights, according to sources familiar with the process who were not permitted to speak publicly. Accel denies any wrongdoing.
Among those who left on Monday was Leah LeVell, a former official in the Trump White House who was Joy’s communications director. LeVell’s father, Bruce, is an adviser to Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Two senior advisers, Sophia Edwards and Paul Fulcher, also departed. None is accused of wrongdoing.
Stacye Loman, the owner of Accel Corporation, did not respond to a request for comment. LeVell, Fulcher and Edwards did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Last week the Guardian disclosed that Joy’s executive assistant alleged to the inspector general and the OSC that she was removed after raising internal concerns about Accel.
The assistant, Katrina Hubbard, said she was reassigned and then terminated earlier this year, after raising the alarm about apparent overpayments to the company. Some Accel subcontractors were falsely classed in higher pay grades, she said, while some billed for days and hours they had not worked.
Naved Jafry, a friend of Joy’s and another Accel subcontractor, resigned last month after it emerged that he had exaggerated his biography and had been accused of fraud in several lawsuits.
Sherrod Brown, a Democratic senator from Ohio, last week accused Carson of filling positions at Hud “based on patronage rather than competence”, following the Guardian’s reports.
Carson denied that charge. Explaining why he removed Joy, Carson said: “I lost confidence in his ability to lead.” Carson said he acted as soon as he was made aware of problems in Joy’s office.
Carson has also been under pressure over an order placed by his office for a $31,000 dining set. A senior official at Hud alleged to OSC in a separate complaint that she was demoted after refusing to break a $5,000 legal spending limit on decorating Carson’s office. Carson said he had moved to cancel the order.
Reports last week suggested that Trump was close to removing Carson. But Newsmax chief executive Christopher Ruddy, a friend of the president, denied that in an interview on Sunday with ABC’s This Week.
“I’m told that the president is happy with the job he’s doing, he will be staying,” Ruddy said.