Acting GSA chief calls Las Vegas spree ‘completely unacceptable’

April 10, 2012

Acting General Services Administration chief Dan Tangherlini reprimanded organizers of a Las Vegas training conference in a video on Tuesday, calling their 2010 spending spree “completely unacceptable.”

“There were violations of travel rules, acquisition rules and good conduct,” Tangherlini said in a YouTube video posted on the GSA Web site. “Those responsible violated rules of common sense, the spirit of public service and the trust taxpayers have placed in all of us.”

He urged GSA employees to read the report on the four-day Western Regions Conference released last week by Inspector General Brian Miller. It revealed details of an $823,000 junket at the luxury M Hotel and Casino for 300 West Coast employees.

Reports of the misdeeds have embarrassed the Obama administration and focused attention on the relatively little-known GSA, which manages all federal real estate and does most government purchasing.

Seven senior GSA leaders have been fired or placed on administrative leave pending further disciplinary action. Administrator Martha N. Johnson resigned under pressure last week hours before the report was released.

Four congressional hearings on the scandal are scheduled for next week.

One will be held by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who said Tuesday that several conference organizers received bonuses ranging from $500 to $1,500 for their contributions to the event. She is seeking a list of those officials from the GSA.

Jeff Neely, the event’s lead organizer and head of the San Francisco-based Pacific Rim office, received a bonus of about $9,000 for his performance in 2011, McCaskill said. The committee reviewing bonuses for Senior Executive Service leaders, including Neely, recommended that he not receive one. But senior agency leaders did not heed that advice, McCaskill said. Neely is on administrative leave.

Tangherlini’s video came after the release Monday of footage from the conference that showed GSA workers mocking the president’s clean-energy campaign.

The clip was released by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, shows a group of conference attendees promoting the “go green” campaign and singing to a gospel song.

“POTUS wants a press event, a project he can show,” the employees sing, while a worker holds up a portrait of Obama. POTUS stands for “president of the United States.”

The video was submitted for an awards competition at the conference.

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