Audit: Taxpayer money used to pay for $222K renovation to official's bathroom

by: Scott MacFarlane Updated:

The renovation was done on the interior secretary's private office bathroom. The bathroom is approximately 100 square feet and cost about $222,000 to renovate, making it more expensive than many homes.

WASHINGTON - Channel 2 Action News has obtained photos of a costly renovation of a government official's bathroom.

Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane secured images inside the office at the Washington headquarters of the U.S. Interior Department.

The renovation was done on the interior secretary's private office bathroom. The bathroom is approximately 100 square feet and cost about $222,000 to renovate, making it more expensive that many homes.

MacFarlane obtained photos of the renovated bathroom through the Freedom of Information Act.

The photos show wall panels were installed that cost about $1,500. Other features include a sub-zero refrigerator, costing about $3,500, custom cabinetry at a cost of about $2,600, a faucet which cost $689 and even a "vintage tissue holder" that cost $65.

Internal government auditors got wind of the bathroom and investigated.

"A number of the items incorporated into the renovation project call into question the need for luxurious materials," the audit found.

Some of the features of the bathroom were bought at the Weaver hardware store in Washington, D.C., just down the street from the U.S. Interior Department.

The items the store sells would be considered top-shelf. But the shop owners said it's not often that the government does this kind of shopping.

David Williams is the president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

He said the Interior Department, then under the direction of former Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, should have settled for a more humble office bathroom.

"First and foremost the country is broke. We can't afford as taxpayers the remodeling of bathrooms or any rooms that don't need to be remodeled," said David Williams of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

The Interior Department said the renovations were needed because of water leaks in the old bathroom and said upgrades happened before President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took office.

The upgrades to the bathroom happened in 2007. Internal auditors issued memos in 2009 about the renovations.

It took a Freedom of Information Act request and four more years for the details to come light.

MacFarlane found the renovations were both approved and contracted by the government's official landlord, the General Services Administration.

A General Services Administration representative said the work happened before the current administration took over and said "greater oversight" is in place now to protect against waste in the future.

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