There has been a tsunami of press this entire stemming from the Las Vegas Conference that led to the resignation of GSA Administrator Martha Johnson and the related firing of GSA’s Public Buildings Commissioner, Bob Peck. The $822,751 Western Regions Conference, which is the subject of the scandal, has received a surprising volume of media commentary from all quarters. The term “lightning rod” was coined to describe exactly this type of event.
For the busy reader, we provide the following compilation to provide all angles on this story:
The Report that Started it All: Any exploration of the “GSA Las Vegas Scandal” must begin with a reading of the GSA Office of Inspector General’s management deficiency report. This 23-page document chronicles, in painstaking detail, each instance of “excessive and wasteful” spending at the 2010 Western Regions Conference.
GSA’s Response: GSA Administrator Martha Johnson, in this April 2nd letter, concurred with the Inspector General’s report and outlined a number of specific actions GSA would take to ensure that similar events would not be repeated.
Resignations and Firings: The immediate fallout from the IG report was the resignation letter issued by GSA Administrator of Martha Johnson. Before she resigned, she terminated the employment of Bob Peck, the Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, and Stephen Leeds, Senior Counselor to the Administrator. Four Regional Commissioners were also placed on administrative leave.
Media Frenzy: It was the Washington Post that first broke the story regarding GSA’s management deficiency report and also that Martha Johnson had resigned. But since then reports have rained down from hundreds of media outlets of every conceivable type: blogs, newspapers, radio, TV, YouTube and social media.
Comedic Coverage: All sorts of press has covered this event, but you know you have a real scandal when Jon Stewart issues his piercing news report. Even Bill O’Reilly joined in to spoof the event’s $4.00 shrimp.
Skits and Songs: A key theme of the conference was to showcase songs and skits from participants throughout the GSA. The Huffington Post aggregates a variety of video clips profiling the talent on display at the conference. Little more needs be said.
Winning Rap: There were many GSA performers featured at the conference but only one could win the Top Talent award. That went to a GSA Region 9 employee delivering a Hawaiian-rap version of the song “Billionaire”. Many weren’t amused by lyrics such as “I’d buy everything your field office can’t afford” But, well, it is kind of funny – a bit appalling in context but a creative effort, nonetheless. The complete version of the rap is also available, followed by more of the awards ceremony.
Government Conference Austerity: Wondering what most government conferences are really like? You can read the comments to this article; and, if you wonder what the biennial Western Regions Conference used to cost, you can read about it here and here. Also, it appears that GSA isn’t the only government agency to be accused of lavish conferences.
Responsible Reform or Political Theater?: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has already scheduled a hearing on April 19th to further explore wasteful spending by GSA. However, some are beginning to question if perhaps cooler heads are required to truly evaluate accountability. Former Public Buildings Commissioner, Joe Moravec, argues that the punishment heaped upon GSA senior leaders is unfair and damaging to public service.