Documents: Then-interior secretary personally oversaw expensive bathroom renovation

by: Scott MacFarlane Updated:

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WASHINGTON —

Channel 2 Action News was first to expose thousands upon thousands of dollars spent on a government official's bathroom renovations, but new documents show the case of government waste didn't stop there.

Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane uncovered details of a $220,000 personal bathroom renovation for the U.S. interior secretary.

MacFarlane has obtained a new batch of documents from a 2009 investigation into the bathroom via the Freedom of Information Act showing the former interior secretary personally oversaw the project.

The bathroom renovation inside the executive suite of the U.S. interior secretary's Washington, D.C. office featured $1,500 wall panels, a full-size subzero refrigerator that cost $3,500, expensive custom cabinetry, a faucet, soap dish, soap dispenser and a "vintage tissue-holder" that cost $65.

A new batch of documents released to MacFarlane by the federal government shows then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne personally requested some of the extravagant upgrades.

One witness told internal agency investigators the secretary "worked directly with the facility employees on the renovation."

The documents show Kempthorne personally ordered the bathroom upgraded near the end of his tenure as a "remembrance” item for future secretaries.

"For the secretary to spend this much time thinking about the remodeling of a bathroom is ludicrous, and he should be ashamed of that," said David Williams with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

The internal audit indicates the subzero fridge was purchased because some of the budgeted money for the project hadn't been spent.

One witness said, "There was a need for additional cost."

The audit also shows a striking 75 percent of U.S. Cabinet secretaries have private baths with full showers, despite the nation's budget crunch.

It also said the Interior Department was recently considering another project: new skylights for the gym at its D.C. headquarters.

MacFarlane attempted to contact Kempthorne but has not received an answer.

MacFarlane learned the bathroom has not been upgraded since. The next interior secretary, who'll likely start in the coming weeks, still gets to use it.

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