Ben Carson Involved Son In Baltimore Business Meetings Against HUD Lawyers' Warnings
Carson involved his son, Ben Carson Jr., in Baltimore meetings as part of a national listening tour with state and city officials and business leaders, the Washington Post reports.
In internal HUD memos obtained by the Post, the department's deputy general counsel, Linda Cruciani, advised Carson not to invite his son to the listening tour, worrying that it "gave the appearance that the Secretary may be using his position for his son’s private gain.”
But Carson refused, and Carson Jr. was not only invited, he reportedly suggested inviting a specific set of Baltimore business leaders to a meeting where Carson solicited input on HUD programs. Among those whom Carson Jr. asked to invite were Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, who declined, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, the Post reports.
Carson Jr., his mother, Candy Carson, and his wife, Merylnn Carson, were all present at HUD events in Baltimore that were open to the news media, as well as meetings behind closed doors with Baltimore and Maryland officials.
Soon after the speaking tour, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services awarded a $485K contract without a bidding process to consulting firm Myriddian, where Merlynn Carson serves as CEO and Carson Jr. serves as a board member. CMS claimed that it has no record of an official invite, and that Verma did not attend any listening tour events.
HUD officials Mason Alexander and Lynne Patton were critical of Carson Jr. having input on the guest list, according to the Post. Patton served as an event planner to the Trump family before Trump appointed her as a regional director for the department, and warned that Carson Jr. and his wife “may be doing business with these entities or may be interested in doing business with these entities,” Cruciani said in her memo.
Carson responded by claiming that he could not have the listening tour without his son, who was "the largest employer in Maryland." Carson Jr. claims to run three law firms with a total of 2,600 employees, and state labor statistics list 29 companies with at least 2,500 employees, six of which have over 5,000.
As Carson leans on his family members for guidance — the Post reports that Candy Carson is frequently seen at HUD headquarters — many leadership positions at the department remain unfilled.