Data posted at OpenTheBooks.com shows that the Obama administration cut the number of EPA employees by nearly 2,000 positions from 17,359 to 15,492 over the past five years. But during this period, the EPA approved massive furniture spending sprees benefiting key employees.
Based on the EPA’s current workforce, the $92 million in furniture cost was equivalent to $6,000 in furniture allowance per staffer. Since President Obama took office, $3,000 per employee or $45 million went into furniture. That’s quite an office decorating bonus at a time when wage growth is stagnant for many American workers.
Lavish furniture is part of the EPA culture. For example, under George Bush, the EPA spent roughly the same amount on furniture per staffer. The $813 pencil drawer? It was purchased in 2007.
But most normal people don’t see moving – especially downsizing – as a license to redecorate, now matter how much they want to. Working families who have to make ends meet simply don’t have that luxury. Not so with the EPA.
Here are the facts: the EPA downsized the workforce, but upsized the furniture. Only in Washington, D.C. would a federal agency try and rationalize massive high-end furniture purchases during a supposed period of downsizing.
Since 2005, the EPA purchased $48.4 million in high-end Herman Miller furniture and also spent $5 million on fancy, designer Knoll, Inc. modern office fittings. Herman Miller’s headquarters is located within the Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL. Knoll, meanwhile, has forty pieces permanently displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
For a described "right handed executive" a $3,959 executive desk was purchased. A "Wood Racetrack Conference Table´ from Herman Miller ($15,751), four "Park Ave Arm Lounge Chairs" ($4,083), five "Computer work stations" ($28,290), a "five drawer multi-lock file case" ($13,304) were all bought.
A "Herman Miller chair with adjustable arms, swivel, lumbar, caster and tilt" costing $4,047 was procured from just one of the 3,659 troubling transactions. The EPA bought a hexagonal table ($5,539), hickory chairs ($6,391), a "Galerie lounge chair" with "Galerie settee" ($2,641). "Ethospace" furniture cost $30,707.
The Director of the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory received $13,595 in office furniture upgrade during February, 2012. The Director of Air Pollution Prevention was approved for $4,592 on new office furniture (2011). And, the EPA Director received new furniture for $2,484 (2011).
In Ann Arbor, MI, when the EPA decided to install new carpeting in an office building, more than $73,000 was spent on "furniture moving expenses." At another regional office, the carpet cleaning alone was $62,438.
Here is a full checkbook break-down by category of the $92.4 million in furniture expense:
The list seems endless.
The EPA’s disclosed purchases demonstrate an across-the-board agency penchant for living large at taxpayer expense. They’ve created a toxic pool of excess and entitlement.
Conclusion: While the EPA downsized employees and office space, they rolled the savings into a luxury furniture spending spree costing tens of millions of dollars at taxpayer expense.
With the national debt at $18 trillion, the EPA needs a lesson in sustainable living.
Adam Andrzejewski is the Chairman of American Transparency, website: OpenTheBooks.com