WASHINGTON — The Interior Department is spending $138,670 to replace leaky doors in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s office, according to records first uncovered by The Associated Press and reviewed by HuffPost.
The agency awarded the contract to Conquest Solutions LLC, a Greenbelt, Maryland-based company that specializes in automation systems. A contract summary available online lists the purchase as “Secretary’s Door.”
Conquest Solutions could not be reached for comment late Thursday. The Interior Department also did not respond to HuffPost’s inquiry.
However, department spokeswoman Heather Swift did confirm the purchase to the AP, saying that Zinke was not aware of the contract and that the purchase is part of a long-running modernization of the historic headquarters building in Washington, D.C.
“The secretary was not aware of this contract but agrees that this is a lot of money for demo, install, materials and labor,” Swift said. “Between regulations that require historic preservation and outdated government procurement rules, the costs for everything from pencils to printing to doors is astronomical. This is a perfect example of why the secretary believes we need to reform procurement processes.”
The work involves replacing three sets of double doors, including two that open from Zinke’s office onto a balcony overlooking the National Mall and another that enters into a hallway on the building’s sixth floor, the AP reported.
Internal agency emails show that the balcony doors were problematic early in Zinke’s tenure. On March 29, Joe Nassar, director of the Interior Department’s Office of Facilities and Administrative Services, wrote to other facilities management staff about water leaking in and the need for new locks.
“We need to come up with a permanent solution for the doors since they are still allowing in rain,” Nassar wrote. He also wrote that replacing the locks would ensure Zinke “doesn’t need a key from the inside and he doesn’t get locked out when he goes outside.”
In a subsequent email, James Grisham, an assistant building manager, informed the others that he was planning to contact a government contractor named Ian — presumably Ian Mulira, the general manager of Conquest Solutions — to replace the historic wood doors with metal ones.
Swift told the AP that the third door leading into the hallway does not lock and requires a security upgrade. It is unclear how much is being spent on each separate door.
Emily Atkin of The New Republic looked into how a door could possibly cost that much and found that state-of-the-art electronic security doors can feature fingerprint or retina scanners. A specialist at a company similar to the one the Interior Department contracted told Atkin that the price tag is not unreasonable for that type of door.
“To be honest with you, $140,000 is not really that far out of the ballpark if it’s a high-security type deal,” the employee told her.
On its website, Conquest Solutions notes that it is working to install a new digital control system at the Interior Department that will reduce energy consumption.
Athan Manuel, director of Sierra Club Lands Protection Program, issued a statement blasting Zinke for the seemingly lavish expense.
“Zinke is a walking scandal who believes he can live the life of luxury on the American taxpayer’s dime, and it’s time Trump puts a stop to it,” Manuel said. “We only hope that this $139,000 door doesn’t hit Zinke on his way out.”
Upon taking over the Interior Department, Zinke — a former Montana congressman and Navy SEAL — redecorated his office with a slew of dead creatures and a collection of Navy SEAL knives. Staff members were left scrambling to accommodate the changes, shuffling around a huge grizzly bear, mounting bison and elk heads directly into the office’s carved oak paneling, and making way for a $1,749 leather couch from California that included “white-glove delivery service.” The interior secretary has also been criticized for his use of private planes, which he dismissed as “a little BS.”
But Zinke isn’t the only member of Donald Trump’s Cabinet to have his spending habits questioned. Just weeks ago, it was revealed that the Department of Housing and Urban Development spent more than $31,000 on a new dining set for Secretary Ben Carson’s office. Carson later canceled the order. And the Environmental Protection Agency spent nearly $25,000 to build a soundproof “privacy booth” in Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office.
This story has been updated to include more details about the procurement process for the door.