Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy spent nearly $13,000 to create an office for his wife, who doesn't hold any political office, according to a report Thursday.
The taxpayer funds, according to NJ.com, were used to install a door and doorway outside a conference room down the hall from his own office, thereby creating a private office for his wife, Tammy Murphy.
The former Goldman Sachs executive's administration has reportedly spent $27,000 on "refurbishments and redecoration" since he took office in January.
Heather Taylor, the custodian for public records in Murphy's office, told the news outlet that such expenses are "standard" among gubernatorial transitions, and the governor himself defended the expenditures.
"She has a prominent seat at the table for policy discussions," Murphy said of the first lady through a spokesperson. "She has certainly become a driving force on the issues that matter most to her — particularly on environmental issues and our plans for transitioning to a clean-energy economy, an area where she has a wealth of valuable insight."
Murphy, who, along with his wife took in $4.6 million in 2016, makes $175,000 a year as governor. His wife, an unelected official, does not get a salary.
The new office and overall role of New Jersey's first lady was met with a mixture of admiration and confusion from Democratic lawmakers, who told NJ.com that Tammy Murphy's position in state politics and governing should be clarified.
"I would love to work with her in any capacity," Democratic state Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald said. "But in order for it to be effective, my humble recommendation would be for the front office to give her a title and a specific area of interest to it so that we in the Legislature — as a co-equal branch of government — would know how to engage and in what capacity."
But Murphy's chief counsel, Matt Platkin, told the outlet that "There's no ambiguity as to what her role is," saying that "she serves to help the governor to make sure that he's pushing his message out in public."
Murphy, in a statement, added "there are other issues where [Tammy Murphy ] is becoming more involved, such as maternal health," noting that "there are going to be many other areas where I know she will play a significant role. New Jersey's future is a bit brighter because we have Tammy as the state's first lady."