Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he's ordering the removal of new flat-screen TVs from the Minnesota's sex offender treatment facility.
Pawlenty called it "a bonehead decision" to outfit the facility in Moose Lake with two dozen 50-inch plasma TVs. Pawlenty says he doesn't usually micromanage state agencies but decided to step in in this case.
The Star Tribune first reported on the TVs Tuesday. Taxpayers may be surprised to learn they footed the hefty bill, with each TV costing about $1,500, plus a $700 mounting bracket.
"The governor is reviewing how this happened and believes those involved should be reprimanded at a minimum," Pawlenty press secretary Alex Carey told Fox 21 News.
The executive director of the sex offender treatment program, Dennis Benson, defended the TVs.
Benson told the Star Tribune that the TVs have clinical value because patients can be watched to see how they respond to what's on TV. Program officials said the TVs also concentrate patients in one spot, making them easier to monitor at a time when staffing has been reduced.
But Pawlenty says the sex offenders can make do with smaller TVs. And despite the removal of the flat screens, the taxpayer money is now gone. The Department of Human Services plans to sell the TVs in an effort to recover some of the funds used to buy them.
The Minnesota Sex Offenders Program is a treatment facility, not a prison, meaning the resident offenders have more privileges than inmates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.