Top GSA official tried to hide report on Vegas bash – Washington Times

Logo of the United States General Services Adm...

Logo of the United States General Services Administration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Top GSA official tried to hide report on Vegas bash – Washington Times.

By Jim McElhatton – The Washington Times

A top administrator at the General Services Administration who worked on President Obama’s presidential transition team sought to keep secret the agency report that uncovered massive waste at a lavish taxpayer-funded GSA conference in Las Vegas, records show.

The 2010 conference, which cost $823,000 and featured a mind-reader, clowns, magicians and a red-carpet party, forced the ouster of several top GSA officials after the agency’s Office of Inspector General released its findings in April.

But months earlier, as word of the report was circulating among GSA officials, Ruth F. Cox, the agency’s regional administrator for several Western states, contacted a colleague in Washington asking what could be done to shield the report from public view.

READ MORE: Click here for an inside look at the Las Vegas conference.

“Is there something we can do to prevent another potential embarrassing episode from unfolding and keep this report from being made public?” she asked in an email obtained by The Washington Times.

Ms. Cox also expressed concern that the inspector general’s report was not entirely correct, though officials now say her comments were made before she saw the final report.

“We don’t need another $16 muffin public allegation that is eventually proven wrong and the damage is already done (and exacerbated by making a false allegation),” she wrote in an email she deemed “highly confidential.”

Ms. Cox was referring to a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, which reviewed conference expenditures and later retracted one widely publicized finding concerning muffins initially reported to have cost $16 each.

Adam Elkington, an agency spokesman, said Tuesday that Ms. Cox made the comments in the email before the release of the inspector general’s report and before “having any knowledge of the findings.”

GSA, including Ms. Cox, is appalled by the missteps highlighted in the IG’s report and have taken disciplinary action against those responsible, accepted all of the IG’s recommendations and continue to take steps to ensure this never happens again,” Mr. Elkington wrote in an email to The Times.

“We welcome oversight and will continue to be guided by the highest level of transparency. GSA’s new Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini initiated a top-to-bottom review of our agency’s operations. GSA remains committed to eliminating excessive federal spending and promoting government efficiency.”

In the email, Ms. Cox also referred to Jeffrey Neely, former acting administrator for the region, who played a key role in organizing the conference and was seen on video boasting about how much fun the federal workers were having in Las Vegas.

“I know Susan is not happy that Jeff received a relatively high performance evaluation and bonus given what transpired with the Western Regional Conference, but my concern at this point is not Jeff but the agency and the administration,” Ms. Cox wrote. “Making this public to punish Jeff with a side effect of unnecessarily exposing the agency doesn’t make sense to me.”

In her email, Ms. Cox also said she shared concerns within the agency about Mr. Neely, who was facing scrutiny because of his agency-funded trips to Hawaii and other Pacific destinations.

The correspondence reflects early recognition within GSA about the potential impact of public disclosure and embarrassment for the administration. Officials were right to be concerned. Among those forced out in the wake of the scandal were former GSA Commissioner Martha Johnson; a top adviser, Stephen Leeds; and Robert Peck, chief of GSA’s Public Buildings Service.

Soon after the audit was released, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew issued a statement condemning the expenditures and noting that Mr. Obama was outraged.

Ms. Cox was named regional administrator for the Pacific Rim in August, overseeing more than 1,000 employees and 1,200 government-owned and -leased buildings in California, Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada, as well as in overseas posts in Guam, Japan and American Samoa.

According to an agency biography, she was executive director of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association before joining GSA. She also has worked as executive director of the 21st Century Democrats and in the Obama-Biden transition team’s office of intergovernmental affairs.

Meanwhile, Congress has held several hearings on the conference, including one where Mr. Neely, no longer employed by the agency, refused to testify and invoked his rights under the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.

The agency came under renewed scrutiny this week after members of Congress questioned more than $1 million in bonuses handed out to GSA employees who were being investigated for wrongdoing or misconduct.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, released information about the bonuses Monday and said the review would be broadened to include other federal agencies.

Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has called on GSA to detail hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses paid out to “virtual” employees, including supervisors, who worked out of the office.

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But will anything happen? – Tea Party Nation

Gsa seal

Gsa seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But will anything happen? – Tea Party Nation.

Posted by Judson Phillips

Darryl Issa and other Congressmen are kicking off an investigation into the out of control Government Services Administration and the GSA’s blatant and possibly criminal misuse of taxpayer dollars.

 Well, it is about time but will anything happen?

 From Fox News:

 Congress will kick off a wave of what are likely to be contentious hearings Monday on the spending habits of the General Services Administration, as lawmakers try to uncover how the agency blew through $820,000 on a Las Vegas conference.

 The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, one of four panels probing the incident, has set the first hearing for Monday afternoon. The panel has called some of the top current and former GSA officials to testify, though at least one is expected to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions.

 Lawmakers at this point are looking beyond the 2010 conference itself and into other areas where the agency may have spent money imprudently, such as on employee incentive programs. The hearing will surely fuel the controversy, which has expanded almost daily as new details emerge about the decision-making at the top levels of the GSA.

 Among those on the witness list Monday are GSA Inspector General Brian Miller and former GSA Administrator Martha Johnson, who resigned in the wake of the inspector general’s report on the conference.

 The head of the GSA western region who organized the conference, Jeffrey Neely, has said through an attorney that he plans to plead the Fifth. His attorney says Neely doesn’t need to come to D.C., but Issa insists he should appear anyway.

  While Obama is still President, do not expect any real changes in the GSA. 

 But Congress can act. 

 The left always uses the excuse of waste, fraud and abuse to cut the Defense budget.  Well you have some serious waste, fraud and abuse here.  The solution is to cut the GSA’s budget.  In fact, why not just eliminated this agency?

 Just line out the money the agency uses and fire all of the employees.  It is tough but we taxpayers are pretty angry about the way our tax dollars are being spent. 

 Judging from those videos we saw, having those GSA employees lose their jobs; well, that’s no great loss.

Outrage upon outrage – Tea Party Nation

Vector image of the Las Vegas sign. Português:...

Vector image of the Las Vegas sign. Português: Imagems vectorial da placa de Las Vegas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Outrage upon outrage – Tea Party Nation.

Posted by Judson Phillips

Just when you thought the GSA scandal could not get any worse, it does.  Not only did GSA employees blow a million dollars on a conference where they bragged about wasting government money, some employees got bonuses for planning the conference. 

 You cannot make this stuff up!

 From Fox News:

 Awarding bonuses for wasting taxpayer dollars?

 That appears to be incentive offered by the federal agency under fire for spending lavishly on a 2010 conference held near Las Vegas. The latest details from an inspector general report on the conference reveal 50 employees were given cash awards of $500 and $1,000 for their work arranging the now-infamous conference.

 “It would also appear that a number of GSA bureaucrats who helped arrange the Las Vegas junket were handed cash bonuses for their work in wasting the better part of a million dollars,” Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said Tuesday.

 Rep. Mica also revealed Tuesday that one high-ranking official spent an extra night in Vegas at taxpayer expense, even though the conference was already over.

 Calling the new revelation the “icing on the cake,” Mica said the official paid only $93 for a fourth night at the Vegas suite, which costs more than $1,000 a night.

 The rest of the cost of the room “was apparently charged to the taxpayer” he said in a statement.

 Everyone seems outraged about this scandal but are Obama, the Party of Treason and the Republicans really outraged about the scandal or are they outraged it is now the news story of the week in all of the media?

 My money is on the latter.

 Why?

 This outrage not only demands that people be fired and possibly prosecuted, but if the government has this much money to waste, it has too much money.

 If the Congress were serious about this scandal, they would gut the GSA’s budget.   If the Republicans were serious about this, the budget cleaver would be falling on the GSA and other departments.  If the Party of Treason was serious about this, they would be proposing massive cuts in this department.  If Obama were serious, he would be proposing massive budget cuts in this department. 

 We the people are not a blank check for Congress.  We do not work hard just so some non-working government employees can go party in Vegas on our dollars.

 The real tragedy here is that the American people are absolutely outraged about this scandal.  Our politicians will pontificate.  A couple of sacrificial lambs will be thrown under the bus and nothing will change in DC.

 How much longer must we tolerate this?