The Interior Department reportedly spent $139,000 on construction for the agency labeled “Secretary’s Door,” according to records first reported by the Associated Press.
The Interior Department declined to further elaborate on the construction to the Associated Press, and a man who answered the phone at the company that performed the work reportedly hung up on the reporter when asked about Zinke’s office.
But this would hardly be the first time that Secretary Ryan Zinke spent taxpayer money on an unusual expenditure. According to the Washington Post, Zinke has commissioned commemorative coins with his name on them to give to visitors, and has also instated a tradition of flying a special secretarial flag whenever he is at the Interior Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
It is unclear what the expense to the taxpayer is from the flag or the coins.
Zinke has also come under fire for his use of military and chartered planes while conducting government work. One trip, which Zinke took from Las Vegas, Nevada to Kalispell, Montana — near his hometown of Whitefish — cost taxpayers $12,375. Zinke defended that choice by saying he could not have made a meeting with members of Las Vegas’ new professional hockey team if he had taken a commercial flight.
Zinke also spent more than $14,000 on government helicopters in the summer of 2017, which transported the secretary to places like Yorktown, Virginia — a three and a half hour drive from D.C. — and Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
As Interior secretary, Zinke has supported the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts for the agency, saying last March that the administration’s budget for 2018 would “cut wasteful spending and make the government work for the taxpayer again.” Zinke has also proposed cutting the agency’s workforce by 4,000.
Zinke is not the only member of Trump’s cabinet to come under scrutiny for expensive office paraphernalia. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt reportedly spent almost $25,000 on a secure phone booth for his office, while Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson ordered — and subsequently, cancelled — a dining set for his office that would have cost $31,000.