Federal Heads Roll Over $822K Vegas Party

Waste included $6K in coins honoring GSA's work on stimulus

By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 3, 2012 7:26 AM CDT

(Newser) – What happens in Vegas ... has come back to bite a federal agency that decided to throw itself an $822,000 conference that was every bit as posh as it was ill-advised. Martha Johnson, the administrator of the General Services Administration, has quit over the brouhaha, acknowledging in her resignation letter that "taxpayer dollars were squandered" in a "significant misstep." Two of her deputies were fired, and four managers have been suspended, reports the Washington Post. The incident is predictably triggering outrage on the Hill, with Joe Lieberman labeling it “a stupid and infuriating waste of taxpayer dollars," and the White House—fully aware of election-year accusations of bloated government—calling for "all those responsible to be held fully accountable."

Heads began to roll just as the GSA inspector general released a scathing report, which the LA Times notes blasted the agency as having violated its mission of "developing the rules followed by other federal agencies for conferences." A breakdown of some of the highlights from the October 2010 party, er, convention, which was held at the M Resort Spa Casino for just 300 of the GSA's 12,600 employees:

  • $130,000 for six location-scouting trips
  • $75,000 for a team-building exercise, the purpose of which was to build a bicycle
  • $6,325 for coins commemorating GSA employees' work on the stimulus
  • $8,130 for "yearbooks" presented to employees at a closing-night dinner
  • $2,000 for a party in the loft suite of one of the fired deputies
  • $7 each for 1,000 sushi rolls
  • $5 each for 400 "mini Monte Cristo sandwiches"
  • $4.75 each for 400 pieces of "Petit Beef Wellington"
  • $146,527 for the total cost of catered food

Janet Napolitano listens as GSA Administrator Martha N. Johnson speaks. Johnson has resigned over an $822,000 conference her agency held in Las Vegas in 2010.
Janet Napolitano listens as GSA Administrator Martha N. Johnson speaks. Johnson has resigned over an $822,000 conference her agency held in Las Vegas in 2010.   (Getty Images)
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