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

WASHINGTON Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:08am 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 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 to Neely from his wife, Deb, in preparation for the 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.

(Corrected attribution of quote to wife instead of husband, headline and paragraph 11)

(Reporting By Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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Comments (4)
Eideard wrote:
Golly, I’m so amazed. Especially after the revelations a year or so back of oil lease management staff partying with, sleeping with, oil company staff – during the Bush years.

The only amazing part is Congressional cruds who act surprised over any level of corruption – when they’ve been participants themselves for so long.

Apr 18, 2012 10:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
MJGSimple wrote:
I am not surprised. There are few things in this case that could be uncovered which would surprise me. And to think that Congressmen are surprised or unaware of these actions is the pinnacle of hypocrisy.

I just can’t wait until the comment boards fill with people suggesting Obama is the cause of this. Or worse, that the poor are the reason the US can’t balance a budget.

Apr 18, 2012 12:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
NewsDebbie wrote:
So the GSA parties and so does lease management under Bush. Both groups are out of control. Both groups would not be on any Presidents (Romney or Obama) daily briefing, and both groups comprise of both Dem and Republicans. I laugh at how Dems/GOP go against a government agency as if the other party in power is also comprised of all the opposing party. This year the IRS, Post Office, GSA and Secret Service must all be Dem employees and voters. Next year if GOP wins then the IRS, Post Office, GSA and Secret Service will all be GOPers and the Dem party will complain. It is just silly. Several agencies are out of control but it is not a Dem/GOP issue but regulation and supervision issues regardless of who is in political power.

Apr 18, 2012 2:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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