Several employees at the FBI became seriously ill after the agency spent $750,000 on a 15,000 pound, two-story tall wooden statue that was placed in the lobby of its Miami, Fl. office.
A dozen people were ultimately hospitalized because of the dust the sculpture created, according to Politico.
The statue, which is made of red cedar imported from Vancouver, Canada and supposed to resemble a tornado, was purchased by the General Services Administration (GSA), an independent government agency. It was installed early last year, but has already been removed due to its almost toxic-like qualities.
“The health and safety issues surrounding the sculpture were real,” Richard Haley, the FBI’s assistant director of finance overseeing department property, said in a letter according to Politico. “One employee required an 11-day hospital stay and none have been able to return to work at the new field office.”
The one nurse at the office became so sick that she had to be moved to another location.
“Upon the installation of the art sculpture, the nurse developed rhinitis, difficulty swallowing, sinus pressure, sneezing, has difficulty breathing and began to itch all over,” read a June 2015 letter from the supervisor of facilities for the FBI’s Miami Division sent to two GSA officials.
Another worker was cited as having fevers and swollen lymph nodes, which abated once they stayed away from the behemoth carving for an extended period of time. (RELATED: Report: VA Spends $20 Million On Art Instead Of Hiring Doctors)
When complaints first arose, the GSA was not ready to get rid of the statue, which served no specific purpose except for subjective aesthetic pleasure.
In fact, officials at the GSA seemed to have very little, if any, buyer’s remorse, citing the fact that the sculpture was a steal and “likely worth more than the $750,000 the government paid,” according to documents reviewed by Politico. (RELATED: IRS Spent $12 Million Of Taxpayer Money On Email System, Find Out After It Doesn’t Work)
Haley wrote a letter to Norman Dong, the GSA’s commissioner of public building services, arguing that Michael Goodwin, the GSA’s southeast regional commissioner, wasn’t too keen to the idea of remove the sculpture even after reports of health issues.
“Mr. Goodwin resisted the FBI’s request to remove the artwork, inexplicably ignoring that 17 Miami field office employees became ill following its instillation,” the letter states. “Mr Goodwin appeared to be concerned only for the artwork.”
Haley even asserts that Goodwin was upset that the FBI “endangered” the artwork by trying to keep the dust away from workers’ by wrapping it in a tarp.
GSA officials dispute these contentions.
“GSA is fully committed to ensuring public health and safety in the buildings we manage and maintain on behalf of our federal partners,” spokeswoman Saudia Muwwakkil told Politico. “We strongly value our relationship with the FBI.”
“FOH (Federal Occupational Health) measured no cedar dust in the facility and found insufficient evidence to implicate the artwork as the source of health conditions reported by FBI employees,” said Muwwakkil.
Nevertheless, the GSA and the FBI fought over who should pay for the statue to be transported to another location.
The price to remove the sculpture from the premises, according to certain documents, was estimated to be $412,000, meaning that the overall costs to taxpayers likely exceeded at least $1 million.
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