During the conference, Peck e-mailed GSA staff members, including Jeff Neely, who approved the event’s budget, to say that he was purchasing wine and beer for “about 80 folks,” according to an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post. Peck and other administrators then paid for the beverages out of their own pockets, according to sources familiar with the charges. Neely told the inspector general that money was collected from senior staff members $20 or $40 at a time.
Nearly 300 appetizers, six dozen shrimp and other refreshments were also ordered, at a cost of $1,960, according to a room receipt. In his interview with the inspector general, Neely expressed surprise that the GSA was charged extra for the food beyond the conference’s “master contract.”
“I did not know that. And I can’t imagine Bob knew that,” Neely said, according to a transcript.
Peck later wrote to admonish Neely, calling the conference spending “a managerial lapse which I expect will not be repeated.”
But members of Congress have criticized top GSA administrators for not doing more to prevent the overspending and to punish the conference’s planners once problems emerged. Peck approved a bonus last year for Neely, despite knowing about the inspector general’s investigation, congressional aides said.
Acting Public Buildings Commissioner Linda C. Chero has asked Peck to repay the $1,960 food bill. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has been raising concerns about Peck’s management since 2010 and said in a statement that “the most troubling aspect of Bob Peck’s leadership was his failure to take the work of the Inspector General seriously.”
And not all of his associates in Washington have come to Peck’s defense. Jim Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, declined to comment. “Right now, I just don’t know enough about what all happened,” he said.
That the party in Peck’s suite — far from lavish by the standards of some private-sector real estate fetes — was over the top “probably just never would have occurred to him,” Glosserman said.
“Maybe it should have. Perhaps he was clumsy. But do you fire someone over a $1,900 bill? If that’s the most that Bob is being accused of, then it feels like overkill to me.”