GSA Chief Administrator Martha Johnson resigned today (April 2) and two of her deputies—Public Buildings Service Commissioner Bob Peck and Johnson’s top adviser, Stephen Leeds—were fired, according to White House officials cited in a Washington Post report. In a statement released this afternoon, GSA spokesman Greg Mecher confirmed that Johnson removed the two senior leaders within the agency before submitting her own resignation, effective as of the close of business today. The resignation and firings come as the agency’s inspector general released a report of “excessive, wasteful and, in some cases, impermissible” spending at a GSA Western Regions training conference at a resort hotel outside Las Vegas, which cost $822,751 and was attended by 300 employees.
Before resigning, Johnson proposed “tough new controls” to ensure that such events will not happen again. According to Mecher, accounting procedures are being revamped, GSA will have greater oversight over conference planners and contractors, and all employees will be required to take mandatory training in conference planning. In addition, travel budgets for several regional offices have been reduced and future conferences in the Western Region have been canceled.
“I feel I must step aside as Administrator so that the Agency can move forward at this time with a fresh leadership team,” said Johnson in her letter of resignation. That team will be led by Dan Tangherlini, a former District of Columbia city administrator (while there, he hired Planning Director Harriet Tregoning) who has been serving as the U.S. Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for management, chief financial officer and chief performance officer since July 2009. Tangherlini also formerly headed the D.C. Department of Transportation—where he is credited with jump-starting the city’s streetcar program—and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro). Before joining the city government in 1998 (as chief financial officer for the Metropolitan Police Department), he had worked for the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
We have to agree with the Washington City Paper’s perspective that “you couldn’t ask for a better guy for the job, from the District’s perspective.” Tangherlini has built a reputation as an extremely capable administrator, but he will be challenged to find an equally adept Public Buildings Commissioner who can continue to build on the improvements Peck had started.