Since his dismissal, conflicting portraits of Peck have emerged. One is of a bureaucrat asleep at the wheel while shocking spending occurred. Another is of a dedicated public servant in the mold of his former boss, the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D- N.Y.).
“The Bob Peck that I know is a really ethical guy,” said Linda Rabbitt, chief executive and president of Rand Construction. “He is a really ethical person. He took his job at GSA and his vision of things he wanted to do very seriously. So you know people in the business community and real estate community have a lot of respect for him. This is a hard thing to watch happen.”
Rabbitt, a friend who spoke with Peck briefly after his firing, said that she hadn’t read the inspector general’s report on the conference but that it was hard to believe that a man who she said lives “a very modest life” would condone spending such as $75,000 on a bicycle-assembly demonstration.
Peck, 64, declined to comment for this story. He lives in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of the District, is married to a D.C. public high school teacher and, unlike seemingly everyone in the commercial real estate industry, shuns golf.
“There is nothing about his lifestyle that is lavish,” Rabbitt said. “Nothing. Zero.”
Peck played a major role in the redevelopment of Washington, holding senior positions at the D.C. Preservation League, the National Endowment for the Arts and the firm Jones Lang LaSalle, where he advised companies and governments on real estate. He was in his second stint as GSA public buildings commissioner after holding the post from 1995 to 2001.
While taxpayers have fumed at the cost of the Las Vegas conference at the center of the scandal, some of Peck’s longtime associates said the government overreacted in firing him when he was working to save hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate costs through reductions in space and energy use at federal buildings nationwide.
Michael J. Glosserman, managing partner of the real estate firm JBG Companies, described Peck as a “terrific example of a public servant.”
“It felt like to me that examples needed to be made; it was embarrassing to the government, and heads needed to roll at a very high level, and Bob was a victim,” he said.
Richard Bradley, executive director of the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District, said the public buildings commissioner — who is responsible for an annual budget of $8.6 billion, a workforce of 6,700 and a portfolio of more than 9,600 properties — shouldn’t be mired in the details of every conference.