WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Interior spent $139,000 to fix three sets of doors in Secretary Ryan Zinke’s office, a spokeswoman said on Thursday, a move quickly criticized as wasteful by activists.
Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said that the project to fix the three double doors was requested by career facilities and security officials as part of a decade-long overhaul of the historic building, which was completed in 1936.
Zinke “was not aware of this contract but agrees that this is a lot of money for demo, install, materials, and labor,” Swift said in an email about the work, first reported by the Associated Press.
Joe Nassar, the director of Interior’s office of facilities, said the work was needed to stop water from coming into Zinke’s office during rain storms, which was damaging wooden floors in the office. Nassar said bottom panels of the old doors had been temporarily fixed with cardboard and duct tape and were replaced by fiberglass doors with new locks.
Swift blamed the cost of the fix on rules for historic preservation and procurement.
Environmentalists decried the expense, which was more than double the median U.S. household income in 2017, according to the Census Bureau.
Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said, “Taxpayer dollars don’t grow on trees, but Mr. Zinke and his fellow grifters in the Trump administration repeatedly raid the federal treasury like it does.”
Zinke is being investigated by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel on whether be violated the Hatch Act, which bars executive branch employees from engaging in political activity, when he gave a speech to a professional hockey team owned by a political donor last year.
He is also being investigated by the Interior Department’s inspector general in connection with travels and the use of private charter flights.
Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Cynthia Osterman