Report: South Florida FBI workers sickened by $750k wood sculpture

MIAMI (WSVN) - A massive, expensive sculpture in a South Florida FBI building sickened several workers, according to a report from Politico.

The 17-feet tall red cedar wood sculpture titled “Cedrus” was installed early last year in the lobby of the FBI’s Miami field office in Miramar. The two-story piece weighed more than 15,000 pounds, and was designed to resemble a tornado.

The General Services Administration, and independent agency of the U.S. government, contracted with artist Ursula von Rydingsvard to create the work at a cost of $750,000.

But shortly after the work was installed in the building, FBI workers began getting sick. Politico reports at least a dozen workers were hospitalized, with most suffering allergic reactions to the cedar dust from the sculpture.

The enormous piece of art was removed in October of 2015, costing taxpayers an estimated $412,000. With the price of the artwork, the total cost to taxpayers ended up being nearly $1.2 million.

Politico reviewed documents between the FBI and GSA, including a letter from Richard Haley, the FBI’s assistant director of finance overseeing department property. In it, Haley claimed the GSA’s southeast regional commissioner Michael Goodwin was hesitant to remove the sculpture, even after people started getting sick.

“Mr. Goodwin resisted the FBI’s request to remove the artwork, inexplicably ignoring that 17 Miami field office employees became ill following its installation,” Hayley’s letter read. “Mr. Goodwin appeared to be concerned only for the artwork.”

The GSA refuted that claim, with spokeswoman Saudia Muwwakkil saying, “GSA is fully committed to ensuring public health and safety in the buildings we manage and maintain on behalf of our federal partners.”

The sculpture was moved to the GSA’s fine arts facility in Alexandria, Virginia.

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