The Pima Association of Governments reluctantly authorized expensive furnishings in a new building downtown.
Although the PAG Regional Council signed a lease to be the main tenant at the new One East Broadway office building without any questions last year, its members had been kept in the dark on an extra $1 million in tenant-improvement costs until recently.
Former director Gary Hayes, who oversaw the building plans, resigned in ill health in December.
Interim director Cherie Campbell said it's unfortunate the council wasn't given the information during initial discussions, and she is trying to correct that.
On Thursday the council voted 5-2 to go ahead with the plans, saying lawsuits resulting from a broken lease would cost more than the extra improvements.
Pima County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ramón Valadez and South Tucson Mayor Jennifer Eckstrom voted no.
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who took over as PAG board chairman in January, said, "It's just another mess I've been asked to come in and clean up."
Marana Mayor Ed Honea said none of the council members were happy about voting 'yes.'
PAG currently pays $392,000 a year for space at the TransAmerica building downtown. Space at One East Broadway, now under construction, will cost more than twice that - about $860,000 a year.
Rothschild said the extra money must come from PAG's administration budget, not from taxpayer funds for roads.
Campbell agreed to find the money in the administration portion of PAG's $8 million annual budget.
Plans call for include four conference rooms, two kitchens and a coffee nook, and a director's office with a private bathroom.
Plans also call for audiovisual gear including a sound system with a power amplifier and mixers, video cameras, 70-inch and 50-inch screens in the boardroom, 42- and 55-inch screens in the conference rooms - even a 55-inch screen in the break room.
Campbell said PAG needs more seating capacity for public meetings, and the tech gear for videoconferencing will be paid for by a tribal grant, she said.
The council asked PAG to "cut out all the frills, and they're working on that," Rothschild said.
County Supervisor Ally Miller - who asked to address the council about the new building but wasn't allowed to until after the vote - said she is outraged and appalled.
Miller said it will be hard to cut enough money to make up for the extra expenses, and she said PAG should have looked at other downtown rental space, such as Pima County's new courts building.
"People lose confidence in government when things like this happen," Miller told the council. "And I hope there's a thorough investigation and someone is held accountable."
PAG is looking for a new director to replace Hayes.
Contact reporter Becky Pallack at email@example.com or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.