Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, a top Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUB) official, left HUB over disagreements with members of the Trump administration over the White House’s attempt to block money going to Puerto Rico for disaster recovery. Five people with direct knowledge have confirmed this information to The Washington Post.
Patenaude denied that internal conflicts played a role. She said, “These jobs are all-consuming. There are no ulterior motives. I’m not mad at the administration.”
HUD employees say that her departure is a blow to the administration.
Diane Yentel, president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said, “She knows the HUD building, the issues, the policies and the politics. She was an especially strong and important counterpoint to Secretary Carson’s early lack of knowledge on any of the issues that he was expected to lead on.”
Patenaude’s confidants say that a series of frustrating incidents caused her departure, not one huge issue.
Last fall Patenaude was concerned about the Trump administration’s intervention in disaster-recovery money for Puerto Rico and other states affected by the hurricane.
Trump then said that he did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico, because he believed they were misusing the money. Instead, he wanted the money to go to Texas and Florida.
After her visit to Puerto Rico, Patenaude told The Post: “I didn’t push back. I advocated for Puerto Rico and assured the White House that Puerto Rico had sufficient financial controls in place and had put together a thoughtful housing and economic development recovery plan.”
The week before her resignation, Puerto Rico was authorized to request future drawdowns for their recovery efforts.
One HUD official said, “She didn’t want to abandon Puerto Rico. Once she felt like she left Puerto Rico in a good place, she felt like she could leave.”