Small's House Rarely Used For Business

By James V. Grimaldi and Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lawrence M. Small, the former secretary of the Smithsonian, rarely used his Northwest Washington mansion for institution-related entertaining in the past four years, despite receiving a housing allowance totaling $1.1 million since 2000 to make his residence available for official functions, institution records released yesterday show.

Small used his property for Smithsonian events only four times in the past four years and had not used it since 2005.

The new details emerged in a 13-page letter from Roger Sant, chairman of the Smithsonian Board of Regents executive committee, to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), whose office has been investigating abuses at nonprofits such as the Smithsonian. Inquiries into Small's controversial compensation and expenses resulted in Small's resignation last month.

Grassley expressed dismay that in 2005, when Small was paid $179,322 in housing allowance, the secretary hosted one Smithsonian-related catered dinner for 10 people. "The American taxpayers will be pleased to hear on the day after filing their taxes that they helped underwrite a dinner that cost over $18,000 a plate," Grassley said. "There clearly needs to be a big broom to sweep out the problems at the Smithsonian and the 'anything goes' culture."

Small responded yesterday to questions from The Post about the use of his home via e-mail: "Given the exciting new museums and modernized exhibits which opened over the last several years, it became overwhelmingly clear it was far more compelling and cost-effective to entertain donors and potential supporters in the Smithsonian's unique settings than in a private home."

The regents also revealed in the letter to Grassley that Small's controversial first-class travel was something he insisted upon when he was negotiating for the job, which he got in 2000. "Mr. Small made this provision in his contract a 'deal breaker,' " Sant said.

Small's employment agreement permitted the former president of the Federal National Mortgage Association to fly first-class on official trips and "to expense spousal travel when her presence is appropriate."

Records obtained by The Post yesterday show that Small's wife, Sandra Small, a translator, accumulated more than $90,000 in travel expenses charged to the Smithsonian, including for trips to Hawaii, Las Vegas, Miami, San Francisco, New York, Panama, Chile and India. The trip to New Delhi cost more than $14,000.

"All of Mrs. Small's travel was related to activities having to do with Smithsonian business such as fundraising events, Smithsonian National Board overseas trips, and openings of Smithsonian facilities and exhibits," Small said in his e-mail.

Other Smithsonian employees were required to obtain permission in advance to take a spouse on a trip and, after Small resigned, acting Secretary Cristián Samper immediately said he would follow that institution rule.

Details about Small's expenditures were first revealed in what was labeled a confidential letter to the Board of Regents by the Smithsonian inspector general and in an investigation by The Washington Post. Lawmakers raised questions about the salary and spending of Small, the chief executive of a public museum complex that has a budget of $1.1 billion, 70 percent of which comes from the federal government.

In February and March, The Post reported on $2 million in housing and office expenditures by Small, as well as $90,000 in unauthorized expenses.

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