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June 6th, 2013
07:44 PM ET

Watchdog: Man caves hidden in government warehouse

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, CNN

(CNN) - Contractors at an Environmental Protection Agency warehouse were careless with inventories, and used government furniture and appliances to create hidden “man caves” complete with couches and TVs, an agency watchdog alleges.

Out of sight of the security cameras, and often hidden behind screens or boxes, employees created rec-rooms with furniture and appliances from government storage, according to an audit, feathering their nests with televisions, DVDs, refrigerators, microwaves, and couches.

Perhaps the most elaborate part of the setup was an extensive gym, with weights and equipment to rival a fitness center. Using floor tiles from storage, they carpeted the area, and they used notebooks from storage to record their workouts, according to the EPA inspector general’s report.

The EPA was paying contractor Apex Logistics $1.6 million per year to handle the warehouse, located just outside Washington in Landover, Maryland.

“They set up a gym, they set up all these things with our money," said Ryan Alexander, with spending watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense. “So we're paying a contractor, so their guys can sit around and watch tv and work out?”

The report also alleges that valuable inventory was going unused. Large amounts of equipment were idle – not just surplus furniture, but new and unopened air conditioners and refrigerators that sat untouched for the past five years.

Photos also show several upright pianos lying on their backs collecting dust.

"Why are we paying people to store things we don't need? It's just waste upon waste upon waste," said Alexander. "We have old computers that have never been opened. We have lots of stuff that we're just not using."

The auditors also reported finding dirty or unsafe conditions – from furniture piled in the aisles, to unsafe electrical wiring, to dust and rat feces throughout the building.

"It seemed that every aisle you walked down – it was a cumulative effect," EPA auditor Robert Adachi told CNN. "There was inefficiency, there was waste, there was potential abuse."

Perhaps most puzzling of all was a box containing expired passports of EPA employees – including diplomatic passports.

"This was just a breach of security," said Adachi, who pointed out that they could be sold on the black market if they fell into the wrong hands. "There were also other sensitive documents that contained personal identifiable information," he said.

The EPA says it takes the report seriously, and is taking corrective steps.

"We took immediate action to secure the warehouse and its contents, and issued a stop work order to the contractor," said EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson.

An inventory has almost been completed, she said, adding that "all personally identifiable information has been secured and will be stored or disposed of properly."

Adachi said much of the blame goes to the contractor, whom CNN was not able to reach. But still, he said, while the EPA responded quickly once it was alerted to the situation, the agency was still at fault for what he called "a pure lack of oversight" over the years.

Johnson said the EPA believes this was an isolated case, after reviewing all other storage and warehouses and finding them appropriately managed. She said the agency will implement additional safeguards for their oversight and management.

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soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. Trey Keeton

    I'm ok with tax dollars being used to setup a simple gym. I bet they were hard working employees, sad such a big deal was made of this. Tax dollars are spent in much worse ways every day.

    June 11, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
  2. Carolyn

    Most companies provide rec room for their employees as long as they don't use them during the hours they should be working. I guess the only problem is who is paying for it. But when you think about who pay for secret service men hotel room and meals while they are watching the president. All their salaries are paid by taxpayer money including the president. At least they encourage them to stay fit.

    June 10, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  3. Steve

    Republicans want to privatize everything. We'll this is what you get . Some idiot running a payroll company with over payed workers. Fire them and hire government workers with a supervisor. By the way they pay twice as much for a private employee because the politically connected can skim the pay roll.

    June 10, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  4. Cdz

    THAT's a "man cave?" Seems like much ado about nothing. The real waste is the time it took to put this story together and publish it.

    June 9, 2013 at 4:37 am |
  5. Rembrant

    Folks, this is nothing new. I worked in the Pentagon in the 80's and on many government contracts since. Believe me when I tell you: this ain't nothing!
    At least this stuff is being warehoused for future use. When the U.S. Embassy moved from Bonn to Berlin, everything was simply thrown away in Bonn and brought over again from the US to Berlin - I mean: EVERYTHING! From furniture to tools to vacuum cleaners. This is SOP, happens worldwide, and is disheartening to watch. How our Government wastes money is a travesty to every American taxpayer.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  6. Raymond

    Well, you had a good run guys, living every man's dream. Aaaaaaaand queue the unoriginal political commentary and regurgitation of talking points.

    June 7, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  7. Really?

    Wow – TV's, refrigerator, microwaves!! Umm – kinda sound like our lunchroom – or any office's lunchroom!

    June 7, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  8. Jim

    Wow. Going after the really big fish here huh?

    A couple warehouse guys carved out some personal space with box fans and dorm fridges. Big whoop. Do you have any idea what the "back of house" at any federal courtroom looks like? Those very well paid, insured and pensioned governmental employees each have their own magical kingdoms with gyms, showers, kitchens, large staffs to wash their cars and get their dry cleaning.

    The production cost of your ridiculous expose and the binding on the government report likely cost more than all the actual loss at that warehouse. Meh.

    Low hanging fruit. Corporate journalism is a joke. Each of you has some earnest professor out there that you respected. I hope when you think about that professor and then your job in the news "industry" you're ashamed. And if you don't that's even worse.

    June 7, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  9. Cass

    Oh my...refrigerators & pre-historic TVs!!! The injustice of it all. The warehouse looks like a dump. I'm sure nobody reported that? I'm not quite sure what I see as improper purchases? Most federal buildings have TVs in their lobbies to broadcast missing children alerts and the news. Most federal buildings have small gyms – especially buildings that contain law enforcement agencies since its part of their job to keep fit & in shape. Does anyone know any office that doesn't have a refrigerator or a microwave so the employees can keep keep their lunch cold and then warm it up? Most agencies "exchange" furnishings or equipment when they don't need them anymore to avoid making new purchases and to get more use out of the items. One agency's old furniture is another agency's new furniture – at no additional cost. Give me a REAL scandal, because this one is just stupid.

    June 7, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  10. Mr_T

    This is what happens when you farm stuff out to contractors and third-party vendors. Yet gov't and business continue to make the same mistakes.

    June 7, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  11. Griff

    "How about Three Trillion and not three Billion wasted on Destroyers. Like Idiot Obama The biggest wasted Destroyer of all time."

    June 7, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  12. WAtch Both WAY before crossing the steet

    And their is More Places like this i know this for a fact. They are managed and Directed by people whom don't care and don't understand what they are Doing. The Gov. has all the fault in this because they are doing the same thing. the over seers of this facilities and to give the contractors equipment and to make sure they are doing their job. most of the time the facility overseer is doing same thing scamming the system. I now of a place where It was a must to spend ever drop of cash on stupid shit that really did not have justification. the amounts of tax dollars spent every year on event that number one are not very organized in my Onion and cost Millions of Dollars a year. it sad cause our school are broke and they spend without understanding the impact.

    June 7, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  13. Howard Blake


    Where can my company bid on a contract like this? You mean we can get paid, not do much, and completely chill out in a government furnished man cave? Sign me up.

    June 7, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  14. tresnugget

    That man cave sucks. They could have built that with stuff found at Goodwill. Whatever, that 20 year old TV and high school rec room weight bench along with everything else there probably like 300 bucks MAX

    June 7, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  15. Karrie

    I've seen more elaborate lounges than this at companies. What's wrong with a lounge? As long as it wasn't our money, who cares! Let them rest and workout.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  16. firethrower

    Well just think what the actual Fed employees man cave looks like? Hey these contractors get the Idea from the people that hired 'em. They just don't have a unlimited amount of taxpayer $$ to waste, i.e. IRS and GAO.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  17. Larry L

    This sort of thing has been happening for fifty years but now, when every PAC and politician is searching for scandals and reasons for "outrage", this mades the news. The United States Government is a huge enterprise and absolutely will have flaws in management in every agency and department – just like every major corporation. It's good for citizens to expose waste and to help police the system. It is not good for politicians to spend 100% of their time creating scandals rather than doing their most basic job of establishing a budget. That is a scandal!

    June 7, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  18. snookers

    What are they. Compulsive hoarders? Those man caves do not really cost the taxpayer any money. Buying and storing the stuff without using it , is insane and that is where the big waste of taxpayers money is, Why did they buy all this redundant
    stuff, cheaper by the dozen? Fulfilling a political or buddy commitment.
    They would be ahead of the game if the whole warehouse burned down to the ground.. ,

    June 7, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  19. Sevensins

    Tip of the iceberg

    June 7, 2013 at 7:37 am |
  20. Mike

    Not much of a man cave. Was expecting to see something that would blow my mind when I saw the article. Kids TV room at the house looks better.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:36 am |
  21. Steve Johnson

    Agreed, the government should run things like this, not private industry. Private industry just introduces waste and fraud.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • scott

      Are you insane? GOVERNMENT is just about the definition of waste and fraud.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  22. Frank

    This is why the Democrats need to raise taxes, to keep this gravy train of government waste rolling along. We could easily cut 10x the amount sequestration amounted to, just by cutting back on these heinous wasteful spending and contracting. We also need to lay off about 50% of the contractors, and 30% of the Federal workforce.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • Brian

      LOL look at the tv were are they shopping Salvation Army get a grip LOL

      June 7, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  23. Sick of Gov't WASTE

    "a pure lack of oversight" over the years? How many more gov't agencies do we still have to find out about such waste of taxpayer dollars? Our gov't needs to have independent auditors in ALL areas. This is so unacceptable as we are taxed to death, just barely making it from paycheck to paycheck. If you want a gravy job, just apply to Uncle Sam.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:18 am |
  24. Roman

    Wow, cheap ,very ugly, and small space devoted to staying healthy. Unless they used taxpayer money to buy the workout equipment CNN should be ashamed of itself and find real news. Perhaps it would be better if they were smoking and getting fat with taxpayer health insurance – I know – ban McDonalds for goverment employees!

    June 7, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • pm

      The point here if you get it is government waste all the way around. Wake up.

      June 7, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  25. retroman

    Waste? From our government? Really?

    June 7, 2013 at 7:09 am |
  26. topperG

    I guess my first question would be why does the EPA have this type equipment stored in a warehouse? Second, this kind of crap goes on on all across the federal government. Agencies spending your tax dollars on useless items that should be part of their personal off time. We are in a budget crisis, we are going to furlough 800,000 federal employees and this is what we pay someone to do. Manage a warehouse full of stuff they shouldn't even have. You wonder why people get pissed off. I'm sure if the watchdog looked hard enough, he could find alot more.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:03 am |
  27. Michael

    The agency had purchased too much material, had to warehouse what was not required and enterprising employees took advantage of the situation. I don't see a big SNAFU here outside of improper purchasing ... at whose expense? The taxpayer is, once again, left holding the bag.

    June 7, 2013 at 6:57 am |
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