Martha N. Johnson resigned on April 2, 2012 amid reports of lavish spending at a conference off the Las Vegas Strip that featured a clown, a mind reader and a $31,208 reception. Two of her top deputies also were fired and four GSA managers were placed on leave after the reports surfaced.
In her resignation letter, Johnson acknowledged a “significant misstep” at the agency that manages real estate for the federal government. “Taxpayer dollars were squandered,” she wrote. At the start of her tenure in February 2010 she called ethics “a big issue for me.”
The leadership collapse came hours beforeGSA Inspector General Brian D. Miller released a scathing report on the $823,000 training conference, held for 300 West Coast employees at the M Resort and Casino, an opulent hotel in Henderson, Nev., just south of Las Vegas. From $130,000 in travel expenses for six scouting trips to a $2,000 party in Peck’s loft suite, event planners violated federal limits on conference spending.
Why She Matters
Johnson had a lot of time to think about how she would run the General Services Administration. The Yale School of Management graduate was chief of staff to then-GSA Head David Barram from 1997 to 2001. She also co-ran President Obama's GSA transition effort, which gave her an inside perspective on the administration's problems.
And thanks to Congressional shenanigans, she had even longer to consider her strategy. Her nomination was held up for nine months by Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R- Mo.) in an attempt to pressure Johnson to support a proposed federal office building in Kansas City. Johnson was finally approved in February 2010 by a 96 - 0 vote after Obama complained that "nobody can tell me that there's anything particularly wrong with her."