[credit provider=”Google Plus”]
The General Services Administration (GSA) is in its first day of hearings held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for improper spending on a series of lavish GSA conferences in Las Vegas. As widely assumed, U.S. General Services Administration regional commissioner Jeffrey Neely just invoked his fifth amendment rights and refused to answer any questions in the committee’s inquiry.
Darrell Issa, the chair of the committee, pressed Neely by saying that Neely is “uniquely positioned to help the committee understand. To that end, I must consider again to ask you to answer the questions.” Still, Neely, who is on administrative leave refused.
To each of Issa’s questions — on his current employment, if he authorised the GSA budget — Neely gave the same answer: “On the advice of counsel, I respectfully decline to answer based upon my fifth amendment constitutional privilege.”
The hearing comes as new Google Plus photos (from his wife’s account) speak a thousand words and give some insight into some of the lavish details of Neely’s stay in Las Vegas. This photo shows Neely sitting in a bath tub with wine.
There was $822,000 in taxpayer money spent on the GSA’s Western Regions Conference in 2010 in Las Vegas. Some of the wasteful spending came on a clown, a mind reader and T-shirts.
2:25: Congressmen oppose any attempt to grant Neely immunity. And so does Brian Miller, GSA’s inspector general. “I believe the criminal justice system should run its course,” he says.
2:30: David Foley, the deputy commissioner who joked about the GSA’s lavish spending in a video, tried to apologise. It sounded a little half-hearted. He said he thought the video would be “similar to a comedic roast.”
2:33: Brian Miller addresses and confirms allegations of bullying from Neely against employees that threatened to reveal details of the spending. Rep. Elijah Cummings asked if he had heard of one such example in which Neely said an employee would be “squashed like a bug.”
“Those statements and more,” Miller replied.
3:00: Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz just BLASTED GSA chief of staff Michael Robertson in a series of questions: “I struggle to understand what you do know. You’re the chief of staff.”
Here is Issa’s statement previewing the hearing:
“Wasteful spending is a problem that transcends multiple Administrations and multiple Congresses but it’s incumbent on the present Administration and the current Congress to mandate a culture that prevents this type of waste and mismanagement, no matter what happened before them.
“Why did it take eleven months for the Obama Administration to take meaningful action? The Inspector General briefed the Administration with details about the specific action of those responsible for gross waste, yet documents show that some political appointees believed even this year that the report could be kept private and the outrageous details dealt with quietly.
“Some of those same senior political officials approved a bonus for Jeff Neely, the regional public building commissioner who was chief organiser of the 2010 Vegas conference. In the same e-mails where senior leaders are discussing whether or not to offer Neely a bonus, they are speculating on the timing of the release of the IG’s report and the political impact it will have.
“Furthermore, if the political officials responsible for taming bureaucratic excess ignored and dismissed such flagrant and flamboyant violations of the rules, then what confidence do we have that GSA can prevent more shrewdly executed fraud and waste the future?
For all details on the GSA scandal, watch the video below: