"We gonna pawty," said high-flying U.S. government official

WASHINGTON Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:31pm EDT

Jeff Neely of the General Services Administration (GSA) leaves after he declined to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on ''Addressing GSA's Culture of Wasteful Spending'' on Capitol Hill in Washington April 16, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Jeff Neely of the General Services Administration (GSA) leaves after he declined to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on ''Addressing GSA's Culture of Wasteful Spending'' on Capitol Hill in Washington April 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. government official at the center of an election-year spending scandal kept traveling far and wide at taxpayers' expense - long after his boss was advised a year ago of suspected abuses, according to a congressional review released on Tuesday.

The official, Jeff Neely, made four-day visits in March to Hawaii and Napa, California, just days before he was placed on leave at the General Services Administration, pending further investigation and possible criminal charges, the review showed.

In February, Neely, who refused to testify before Congress on Monday, citing his right against self-incrimination, made a five-day trip to Atlanta and a 17-day trip to Hawaii, Guam and Saipan.

"You allowed these trips to continue?" Republican Representative Jeff Denham, who released the review, angrily asked former GSA administrator Martha Johnson, who resigned under pressure this month.

"I'm amazed," said Denham, who accused the GSA of having a "culture of fraud, waste, corruption and coverups." He promised that Congress would dig deeper to expose all.

Denham made the comments at the second congressional hearing in as many days that has focused on a 2010 GSA training conference for 300 workers that Neely organized in Las Vegas. The GSA manages federal buildings and purchases government supplies.

The four-day gathering at a swank hotel cost $823,000, featured a comic, a clown and a mind reader - and has erupted into a scandal drawing Democratic and Republican fire.

With government spending a key issue in the November congressional and presidential elections, a third congressional hearing is set for Wednesday and a fourth on Thursday.

Denham's House transportation subcommittee released a two-page paper at the hearing based on its review of the GSA's own investigation.

Entitled, "Timeline of Investigation and Ongoing Travel Abuses," the paper showed that Neely continued to travel even after Johnson was first advised in May 2011 about suspected fraud and abuse at the October 2010 conference.

An email described as from Neely to his wife, Deb, in preparation for a 17-day February trip, read: "Its yo birfday ... we gonna pawty ...."

Neely's wife accompanied him on the trip, but it was not immediately clear if Neely, as required by law, covered her expenses. Denham asked the GSA's inspector general to determine who paid for it.

The inspector general's office is reviewing Neely's other trips. Their cost has not yet been tabulated, a congressional aide said.

The GSA's office of inspector general on April 2 released a yearlong investigative report into the 2010 conference, concluding that numerous GSA expenses were "excessive, wasteful and in some cases impermissible."

The report's release came nearly a year after GSA Inspector General Brian Miller gave then-GSA administrator Johnson an interim report on his findings.

While Neely, a GSA regional administrator, refused to testify at Monday's hearing, he declined an invitation to even appear at Tuesday's hearing.

(The story was refiled to correct typo in Saipan, paragraph 3)

(Reporting By Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Jackie Frank)

FILED UNDER:
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Comments (9)
gordo365 wrote:
THis is a election year stunt. I attend conferences in Las Vegas regularly. $800k for 300 people is only 2,666 per person. Conference rate at a nice hotel is $200 per night. Can’t hit the starbucks and pay less than $12 for a coffee and muffin. Dinner for 2 at casino resturant usually tops $50 per person. Clown, mindreader are pretty standard fare and cheap compared to tickets for BLue Man group or Cirque.

This is BS

Apr 17, 2012 5:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
But is the conference necessary?
Why should we taxpayers be bleeding out $800K for a single conference
when you guys can just videoconference on google+ for free.

How many conferences are there? Can you prove that without the conference, you can’t do your job?

Which lobbyer is going to bribe you in Las Vegas with a free
latest Cirque du Soliel show, and
which special interest group is going to pay for your free ticket to
the special arts exhibit flown in from the Hermitage of Russia.

gordo365: Since $800k is chump change for you, please disgorge
the reimbursement for all your Las Vegas trips to the IRS so that
WE taxpayers can get our money back, and not be paying interest
for the money you use that you guys borrowed from China! The corrupted culture makes gordo365 BRAINDEAD to the point that they are unable to use common sense or logic, ONLY NOW HOW TO BE CORRUPT AND SPEND MONEY WITHOUT SHAME.

WHAT HAPPENED IN VEGAS THAT YOU ARE NOT TELLING US, THAT YOU THINK STAYS IN VEGAS, actually does NOT stay in Vegas.
Isn’t the real reason you have to stay in a hotel in Vegas, is because
of the ladies of the night, and not because the conference must happen in Vegas, correct? The FBI or CIA, whoever is responsible, should find out who gordo365 is, and INVESTIGATE GORDO365 ASAP before our country gets bankrupted financially and morally by these “Federal employees”.

Apr 17, 2012 6:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
CF137 wrote:
Last time I checked, the DOD/Secret Service rolls up under the authority/responsibility of the Executive Branch.

Apr 17, 2012 7:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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