Governor Baker Didn’t Know About $100,000 Bathroom

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Governor Charlie Baker told an interviewer he hadn’t heard about a $100,000 bathroom that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation installed at its headquarters in Boston – 17 days after it was first reported by WCVB Channel 5.

The 115-square-foot bathroom and kitchenette were installed in a boardroom so that board members don’t have to walk across the hallway to a public bathroom, where they can be followed by reporters, a transportation department spokesman told Channel 5. The report aired February 19.

The bathroom cost $870 a square foot. The project was not put out to bid.

According to Channel 5, the transportation department stonewalled for months when it got questions about the bathroom and initially refused to provide public documents. A week later the secretary of transportation, Stephanie Pollack, released a statement saying “we should have been more careful” to keep costs down but didn’t explain the delay in providing documents.

Baker was asked Thursday about the bathroom by Greg Hill, host of The Hill-Man Morning Show on WAAF FM 107.3, who has Baker on once a month. The show typically has three co-hosts.

A transcript of the exchange, put together by New Boston Post from a recording posted on the WAAF web site, appears below. (It starts at 10:58.)

Hill:  “I want to ask you about — because I always get accused of serving up softballs. I want to ask you about the Department of Transportation. I’m confident, probably, that my wife could spend a hundred thousand dollars on a bathroom. But I don’t know, I don’t know too many other organizations that could. Are you up to speed on the hundred-thousand-dollar bathroom? ‘Cause you’re looking at me like you don’t know about that.”

Baker:  “I might have missed this one. Was this in the news today?”

Hill:  “Ah, no. It was last week. Or maybe — when was the $100,000 bathroom in the news?”

Third voice:  “It was a couple of weeks ago.”

Fourth voice:  “That’s how they got away with it, Hill-Dog.”

Hill:  “So, you know –“

Baker:  “Without knowing how big it is or where they put it, or anything like that, that’s a hard question for me to answer as I stand here. What I can tell you is that I think the performance of the DOT, especially over the course of the past few months and the storms that have come with it, and frankly the performance of the MBTA as well, has been pretty strong. But I’m not familiar with this one.”

Hill:  “Take a look when you go back today.”

Baker:  “All right.”

Hill:  “Take a look at the hundred-thousand-dollar — It’s off the boardroom, and they, they, you know, the board didn’t want to, they were frustrated with running into reporters in the bathroom, so they built their own bathroom. Take a look at the story.”

Baker:  “I will, O.K.”

Hill:  “I think it’s something that might bother you. It’s a lot of money.”

Baker:  “All right. I will. I will.”

Fifth voice:  “Eight hundred and seventy dollars a square foot.”

Hill:  “Yeah, it was about eight hundred and seventy dollars a square foot.”