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GSA gave bonuses to 5 execs now on leave over scandal

May. 23, 2012 - 06:14AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments

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Five senior General Services Administration officials who were placed on administrative leave over an extravagant 2010 Las Vegas conference received between $9,100 and $11,690 in bonuses last year — even while an investigation into excessive conference spending was ongoing.

Public Buildings Service Deputy Commissioner David Foley received a $9,530 bonus effective Jan. 1, according to a document obtained by television station WUSA Channel 9, which like Federal Times is owned by Gannett. WUSA filed a Freedom of Information Act request with GSA for the data.

The four PBS regional commissioners who were involved in planning the $823,000 conference also received bonuses effective Jan. 1:

• Region 7 Commissioner James Weller received $9,100.

• Region 8 Commissioner Paul Prouty received $11,690.

• Region 9 Commissioner Jeff Neely received $9,460.

• Region 10 Commissioner Robin Graf received $11,180.

The bonuses were handed out while GSA’s inspector general was investigating the conference. The http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120402/AGENCY04/204020302/">IG issued its report on the conference on April 2, and the five officials were placed on leave shortly thereafter. The conference featured mind readers, lavish parties and parody skits and has been roundly criticized as a wasteful boondoggle.

Neely took the lead in organizing the 2010 Western Regions Conference and http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120417/DEPARTMENTS07/204170306">directed that it be “over the top.” Foley, Weller, Neely and Graf also attended the conference, congressional sources said.

Neely’s bonus — which he received after top GSA officials had been alerted to the IG’s concerns about the conference — was previously revealed by lawmakers, but the other four bonuses were previously unrevealed.

Top GSA officials have been http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120413/DEPARTMENTS07/204130301/1022/DEPARTMENTS07">criticized for reacting weakly at first to revelations of wasteful spending on the Las Vegas conference. When confronted with early findings by the IG last year, former Public Buildings Service Commissioner Bob Peck — who was fired in the wake of the IG report — issued Neely a weakly worded letter of reprimand. GSA Deputy Administrator Susan Brita complained in a July 2011 email that Neely’s reprimand was “not even a slap on the wrist.”

The revelation of the additional bonuses — which were likewise issued months after the IG’s early findings were submitted to GSA leaders — suggests the agency also ignored warning signs about other top officials besides Neely.

GSA spokesman Adam Elkington said the agency is taking a closer look at the bonuses.

“GSA is conducting a top-to-bottom review of our agency’s operations,” Elkington said in a statement. “This comprehensive review of our agency operations includes all bonus payouts in recent years — especially for those individuals under investigation by GSA’s inspector general.”

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., said the bonuses are unacceptable and that she plans to look into them further.

“The practice of awarding bonuses to GSA employees who were involved in planning wasteful conferences is outrageous, and the size of these bonuses is a slap in the face to taxpayers,” Emerson said in a statement to Federal Times. “We will not tolerate a culture in which bureaucrats put their own interests before the public interest. Every facet of the Western Regions Conference scandal has the full attention of Congress and of the subcommittee charged with appropriating funds to the GSA.”

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., agreed.

“This is offensive to the taxpayer and cannot be tolerated,” Mica said in a statement.

GSA IG Brian Miller has asked the Justice Department to http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120413/DEPARTMENTS07/204130302/1022/DEPARTMENTS07">review wasteful spending by the agency for possible criminal charges.

Neely last month exercised his http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120417/DEPARTMENTS07/204170306/1022/DEPARTMENTS07">Fifth Amendment rights and refused to testify before Congress, and has refused to answer questions from reporters. Foley, Weller, Prouty and Graf did not return multiple phone messages requesting comment from Federal Times.

WUSA-9 Reporter Russ Ptacek also contributed to this report.

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