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VA official resigns, another reassigned in response to conference scandal

Jan. 8, 2013 - 04:38PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Alice Muellerweiss, dean of the VA Learning University, has resigned over her role in organizing two lavish human resources training conferences.
Alice Muellerweiss, dean of the VA Learning University, has resigned over her role in organizing two lavish human resources training conferences. (Department of Veterans Affairs)

A second senior official at the Veterans Affairs Department has resigned and another top executive has been reassigned in response to last year’s findings of wasteful spending at a 2011 conference.

VA confirmed to Federal Times on Tuesday that Alice Muellerweiss, dean of the VA Learning University, resigned over her role in organizing two lavish human resources training conferences in Orlando, Fla. The Washington Examiner first reported on Tuesday that Muellerweiss had resigned.

Tonya Deanes, deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Human Resources Management, was also reassigned to other duties.

John Sepulveda, who was VA’s chief human capital officer, resigned Sept. 30, one day before the inspector general released a report showing that VA spent $6.1 million on the conferences, and wasted $762,000 on video production, food and beverages, promotional items, audio-visual services and awards given to employees who mismanaged the conferences.

The IG concluded Sepulveda lied to investigators regarding his involvement in the production of a $50,000 video parodying the war movie “Patton” that was shown twice at the conferences.

Sepulveda strongly disputed the IG’s conclusion that he purposefully lied, and said he made a mistake. He submitted a sworn affidavit correcting the record in September, shortly after finding out the IG accused him of lying.

Eleven VA employees also improperly accepted gifts from contractors — such as free lodging, meals, Rockettes tickets, and limousine and helicopter rides — while planning the conferences, the IG concluded.

The report criticized Muellerweiss’ “lack of participation and apparent ignorance of what was taking place within her organization,” and said there was little communication between her and Deanes during the planning stage of the conference.

The IG recommended VA take appropriate administrative action against Muellerweiss and Deanes.

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