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Federal Eye
Posted at 05:49 PM ET, 05/24/2012

Jeffrey Neely, GSA official who organized Las Vegas conference, leaves the agency

Jeffrey E. Neely, the embattled General Services Administration regional commissioner who planned a lavish Las Vegas employee conference that cost more than $800,000, has left the agency, a GSA spokesman said.

Neely, the public buildings commissioner for the Pacific Rim region, had been on administrative leave since early April after an inspector general inquiry found rampant waste and abuse associated with the 2010 conference. At the time of the conference, Neely was acting regional commissioner.

News of the overspending on the conference led to the resignation of GSA Administrator Martha Johnson and the firing of her two top lieutenants. Nine other employees were placed on administrative leave.

“GSA is in the process of completing its review of activities associated with the Western Regions Conference and pursuing all available avenues for appropriate disciplinary action against those responsible,” the GSA spokesman said. “Jeff Neely was placed on administrative leave based on his involvement in the WRC. As of today, he’s no longer employed with GSA.”  

The inspector general’s office has asked the Justice Department to conduct a criminal inquiry into Neely’s activities and possible contracting violations.

Neely told investigators that he had set out to change the culture of the Pacific Rim region when he became acting administrator in January 2009. He said he sought high-quality services, even if contracting laws had to be fudged.

Things eventually went off track. An employee awards program, instituted in 2001, grew excessive under Neely’s watch, a separate inspector general’s inquiry found, including thefts, numerous violations of agency directives and misuse of government purchasing cards in the maintenance of the program.

A congressional inquiry into Neely’s management of GSA detailed several instances of personal travel expense charges. His wife, Deborah Neely, accompanied him on some of those trips.

“The guy set up a fiefdom,” said Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), during a congressional inquiry last month. “Not since Jack Abramoff has someone walked with such swagger.”

Neely had planned for the 2010 employee conference to be “over the top,” according to the inspector general’s report. It included a magician and a $75,000 bike-building exercise, and questionable contracting practices.

Employees at the Pacific Rim region office described Neely as confident but arrogant and often abrasive in his management approach.

One employee told GSA investigators that Neely “squashed like a bug” a regional director who questioned his spending on conferences and travel.

Neely did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

By Timothy R. Smith  |  05:49 PM ET, 05/24/2012

 
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