BOSTON (CBS) – One night last fall, State Auditor Suzanne Bump – the constitutional officer charged with exposing wasteful use of tax dollars by state government – unexpectedly stumbled across a classic example of it.
“Everybody’s gone, I’m the last one here,” Bump recalled. “I made sure [all the office lights were] out. By the time I got outside the building and looked up at the windows, my chandelier was on.”
And that’s when she first realized something had gone wrong with a multi-million-dollar makeover of the State House lighting system.
“I started noticing the lights are still on at 7 o’clock, 8 o’clock throughout the building,” she told WBZ-TV. “We may manually shut some off because we don’t need them in closets and restrooms on an ongoing basis in the course of the day, but they’ll come back on.”
The auditor gave us a tour of her office, and we saw for ourselves: the lights – ostensibly controlled by a series of brand-new sensors – seem to have a mind of their own. It even happens in an old safe-turned-supply closet, where the light is rarely needed.
And when a WBZ photographer visited Beacon Hill after midnight on three separate occasions recently, we found the State House ablaze with interior lights.
We asked Bump what’s being done to fix it.
“I’m not aware of any actions that have been taken,” she says, even though she raised concerns last fall with the officials in charge. “They said, well, it takes some time for everything to set itself and work, but here we are months out and things aren’t working.”
State officials overseeing the project told WBZ the same thing, that it’s still a work in progress and the sensor issues will be fixed.
But in the meantime, the electricity bills keep piling up at the taxpayers’ expense. Exactly how much is unclear, but Bump says it’s not chump change.
“Not in a building of this size, no, this is a substantial waste of money. It would be comical if it weren’t such a waste.”
So in parts of the State House the lights are on but nobody’s home?
Bump gave a rueful laugh. “People work hard but I really don’t think they’re burning the midnight oil,” she says.