The General Services Administration is undergoing a total administrative overhaul after throwing an $823,000 conference in Las Vegas in October 2010. The four-day affair included "a clown, a mind reader and a $31,208 reception," as well as countless pillaged minibars.
GSA chief Martha N. Johnson resigned yesterday, in the wake of a year-long investigation and report by GSA Inspector General Brian D. Miller. The report, which provides hilarious details of the four-day event ("300 items of $5.00 'Boursin Scalloped Potato with Barolo Wine Braised Short Ribs'") called the conference "over the top" and blamed "excessive spending" on travel, catering, and vendor costs. Miller also targeted a series of "semi-private 'parties'" hosted in GSA employee suites and "catered at taxpayer expense."
In addition to Johnson's resignation, two deputies were fired and four managers were placed on leave—but at least they'll have their commemorative conference yearbooks ($8,130) and coins ($6,325) to take home with them.
Among the "excessive, wasteful and in some cases impermissable" spending the inspector general documented: $5,600 for three semi-private catered in-room parties and $44 per person daily breakfasts; $75,000 for a "team-building" exercise — the goal was to build a bicycle; $146,000 on catered food and drinks; and $6,325 on commemorative coins in velvet boxes to reward all participants for their work on stimulus projects. The $31,208 "networking" reception featured a $19-per-person artisanal cheese display and $7,000 of sushi. At the conference's closing-night dinner, employees received "yearbooks" with their pictures, at a cost of $8,130.
President Barack Obama appointed Johnson as chief of the GSA in June 2009, and from the beginning she pledged to run the independent agency—essentially responsible for overseeing and managing all federal agencies, which is like the Tea Party's ultimate nightmare—"as ethically as possible":
Ethics "is a big issue for me," she said at the time, adding that "it's right and it's good business" to be a "responsible steward of taxpayer dollars" because "they're trusting you with their pocketbooks."
Miller's report also cites an internal GSA website filled with "pictures and videos of conference events" that was taken down on March 23. If they ever emerge, I think Christopher Guest's got his next script idea.