Taxpayers billed for posh government bathroom

The bathroom in the private office of the secretary of the Interior Department is 100 square feet and more expensive than many American homes. A $222,000 renovation in 2007 was expensive enough to prompt an internal investigation.

The Cox Washington bureau exclusively obtained the results of the review using the Freedom of Information Act. It includes a work order showing wall panels costing more than $1,500. The posh bathroom also now has a refrigerator, installed for $3,500. It also sports $26,000 worth of custom cabinetry surrounding a $689 faucet and a $65 vintage tissue holder.

"A number of the items incorporated into the renovation project call into question the need for luxurious materials," government auditors wrote in their 2009 report.

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," Williams said. "We can't afford, as taxpayers, the remodeling of bathrooms or any rooms that don't need to be remodeled."

The Interior Department said the renovations were needed because of water leaks in the old bath.

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

A GSA spokesman says the work happened before the current administration took over and that more oversight is in place now to protect against wasteful renovations in the future.

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