Most of us remember the time our company decided the office was a little drab and in need of some sprucing up to boost morale and productivity.

After all, 8 hours a day in a grey cubicle can be soul-sapping even for the most dedicated employee, which is why managers recognize the importance of allowing photos and knick-knacks to personalize office spaces.

Companies, too, recognize the value of creating a pleasant, inviting space for both employees and customers and hang art and place potted plants in lobbies and foyers.

While that may be a good expenditure for private companies, their stockholders may complain if the purchases are extravagant – for government offices, with taxpayers paying the bill for the desks, chairs, printers, paper, toner and every necessary office supply, special interior decorating comes in a distant last place.

At a time when the Obama economy is stalled with the president unable to produce a single quarter of 3 percent growth in his eight years in office, 95 million unemployed or underemployed Americans may not be thrilled to learn that the FBI spent over $1 million commissioning a sculpture, installing it, and then having to remove it and store it when it literally made agents sick.

No, it wasn’t that FBI agents and office staff were art critics – they were allergic to the piece itself.

The crime-fighting agency paid $750,000 for a commissioned work called, “Cedrus,” over seven tons of red cedar wood imported from Vancouver, sculpted to look like… a tornado.

This begs the question: Why?

Soon agents and staffers – including the on-site nurse – began suffering from severe allergic reactions.

An internal memo from the FBI explained, “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.”

Another employee suffered a “very swollen” face, while one was hospitalized for 11 days.

Cedrus had to go.

Which, of course, required another expenditure – $412,000 to wrap the sculpture in plastic, remove it, deep clean the Miami FBI field office and put Cedrus in storage.

The final image from Raiders of the Lost Ark comes to mind, even as one contemplates the $1.2 spent on the Cedrus fiasco in Miami.

 
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