bye

General Services Administration Head Resigns Over Taxpayer-Funded Vegas Bonanza

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what is an ethic?

General Services Administration head Martha Johnson and two cohorts resigned or were butt-kicked out the door Monday over some really hilarious spending habits of Our Money! What is a General Services Administration? Ms. Johnson might not have even known! No, but, well, the GSA is the “landlord” of the government, explains the news, and so it is quite something to find that this agency didn’t sit around avoiding fixing broken toilets or ousting rats from beneath the floorboards of America, or suspiciously accept payment only in cash, but instead spent taxpayer dollars on 1,000 $7 sushi rolls, a clown, hundreds of meat medallions, commemorative coins, a mindreader and some other fun at a team-building “conference” held in Las Vegas in 2010. Squirrel in headlights Johnson resigned, along with her deputies Robert A. Peck and Stephen Leeds, and four more GSA managers have been suspended. Let us tally up all the fun that was had by government employees as they drank and played trust exercises and got creeped out by a clown at the M Resort Spa Casino while we were trawling Monster.com and eating coffee grounds for breakfast!

From the government’s official investigation of this spendthrift branch of itself, the very dryly named “Management Deficiency Report,” we have these numbers:

The planning of the three-day conference itself: $100,000
24 bicycles, for a team-building (and bike-building!) exercise — WHAT?: $75,000
400 pieces of Petit Beef Wellington: $1,900
150 American Artisanal Cheese Displays ($19 each): $2,850
225 units of a Pasta Reception Station ($16 each): $3,600
Commemorative coins for each conference attendee: $6,325
Yearbooks for each conference attendee: $8,130
3 “semi-private in-room catered parties,” heh: $5,600
Commemorative canteens and carabiners: $2,781.50
Commemorative shirts: $3,749.40

Pics of the commemorative coins:

hideous

Total cost of the conference: $822,751!

Other features that either weren’t in the report, or whose costs weren’t listed:

  • A “scouting trip” to nine Las Vegas hotels a year prior to the conference
  • An additional “scouting trip,” in which five GSA employees stayed at the M Resort and the Ritz-Carlton (naturally). At the M Resort, the employees were shown to “loft suites” that they were then allowed to stay in during the event as a thank-you for contracting with the M Resort (“Loft suites have 2,400 square feet of space, two stories, multiple HD televisions and wet bars and a going rate of $1,179 per night”).
  • A comedian
  • A clown
  • A mindreader

And here is a picture of the “loft suite”!

martha!

FIN. [Talking Points Memo]

Sponsored Intermission

About the author

Liz is a writer. She has written for this site, evidently, and also The Awl, The San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, The Economist and others. She is the author of a short story collection, Cover Story.

View all articles by Liz Colville

Comments

Hey there, Wonkeputians! Shypixel here to remind you to remember our Commenting Rules For Radicals, Enjoy!

  • Schmannnity

    Jane Hathaway looks remarkable for her age.

    • CogitoErgoBibo

      You'd think she could just ask the Clampetts for the money.

    • Lascauxcaveman

      Anne Hathaway looks better, tho.

    • WiscDad

      I was going to say the same thing…so I'll say something different

    • OzoneTom

      Those Winston cigarettes are pretty amazing.

  • straighteight

    She looks genuinely surprised at how awful she is.

  • Barb

    What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas.

    • BarackMyWorld

      The only thing that ever actually stays in Vegas: your money.

      • Barb

        I was there two weeks ago and the pilot kept referring to it as "Lost Wages" I'm going back in 3 weeks and we'll have to see if they get to keep my money.

        • nounverb911

          Are you staying at an Shelly Adelson establishment?

          • Barb

            No, I am staying at THE Hotel Yes, they call it THE Hotel. It is an M-Life property, as described in Liz's article. I'm in the million dollar slot tournament.

          • nounverb911

            That's a lot of nickels.

          • Biff

            At least they have the House of Blues there, though precious little that passes for blues ever plays there.

  • nounverb911

    I guess what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas doesn't work.
    I need to type faster.

  • Lascauxcaveman

    Needs moar "meat medallions."

    ????

    • LesBontemps

      I wear a meat medallion on my uniform. (I do not have a uniform.)

    • Gleem McShineys

      You either put those into or get those out of slut machines in Vegas, right?

  • Pragmatist2

    No hookers.
    No cocaine.
    If this was a hedge fund they would be embarrassed to turn in the expenses.

    • SorosBot

      Where are the lesbian bondage strippers?

      • nounverb911

        Michael Steele's room.

    • Wilcoxyz

      Seriously. These folks are so pathetic they gorged on cheese, clowns and yearbooks. That's sad. Get canned for something with a pulse. Unless the clown put out. Then it's cool.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/30500320@N06/ DerrickWildcat

    A Clown and a Mind Reader are well worth the money, but the other stuff I question.

    • RedneckMuslin

      You can not pay too much for a clown.

      • Jus_Wonderin

        Though, midget clowns really should be cheaper.

      • SorosBot

        Wait, people would pay for a clown? I thought you'd only pay those freaky scary motherfuckers to stay the hell away from you.

    • Generation[redacted]

      What no mime? I would put a mind reader up against a mime in a cage match.

    • finallyhappy

      We had plenty of clowns in my office when I was a federal employee- and yet I never got a single meat medallion

    • http://wonkette.com/ Sharkey

      Well, everybody needs foodstuffs.

    • rickmaci

      Even the mind reader had to ask them WTF were they thinking when they came up with this boondoggle.

  • Respitetini

    Someone forgot she worked for the Government. And now she doesn't have to remember anymore.

    • nounverb911

      The entire republican caucus has forgotten, why should she?

  • Lascauxcaveman

    My calculator says they spent more than $3000 per bicycle.

    These people ride much better bikes than I do.

    (I could probably still kick their asses on a climb, however.)

    • ALIVE!

      And you KNOW those were not $3,000 bikes they were assembling as a "team exercise." Someone pocketed a very nice profit margin on that. Ugh.

    • Goonemeritus

      You probably couldn’t in this case they are motor assist models. I have ridden against them, inside their battery range they will break your will.

      • Lascauxcaveman

        LOL, you're right. The other day on my way home I saw this lady going up the long pull to my neighborhood and she was absolutely destroying that hill. Looks like she's doing twice the speed I could on my best day. Also riding in a curiously upright position for such a hard climber, I thought. And I'm thinking, damn, I wish I had her legs.

        I'm in my car, so I pull alongside pretty quickly, and yeah, she's on an e-bike, probably praying to G_d the battery holds out.

    • sullivanst

      I had a friend who once spent £5,000 on a bike. I think that's because a small dose of financial reality had forced him to give up the Alfa Romeo Brera concept for which I have no idea how he even found the downpayment.

  • elviouslyqueer

    One GSA official told those planning the conference to make it “over the top.”

    Hookers? Check.
    Blow? Check.
    Pasta Reception Station? Check.

    Let's DO THIS.

    • Limeylizzie

      Pasta Reception Station sounds like a euphemism for something really dirty.

  • ProgressiveInga

    I wonder if the mind-reader foretold Martha's new employment status? If not, EPIC FAIL.

    • Swampgas_Man

      Silly, she's a MIND-READER, not a fortune-teller! She probably said something like, "I'm drawing a blank on this one."

  • http://gratuity.wordpress.com/ Gratuitous World

    $822,000?!?!

    that could buy the murders of at least a dozen more afghan civilians. wtf

    • Chichikovovich

      Totally! And if we had a mere $11,999,778,000 or so more we could wrap it up and send it to Iraq to vanish without a trace.

  • Jus_Wonderin

    I haz a sad,

    • fuflans

      why?

      • Fare la Volpe

        His invite got lost in the snail mail.

        • Jus_Wonderin

          <runs to check mailbox.>

    • Swampgas_Man

      Weeeell, just found out H&R Block screwed up my Direct Deposit, my Tax Refund is Jeebus-knows-where, and I have to wait another six weeks for the IRS to "investigate". I haz a Pissed Off.

  • fuflans

    Management Deficiency Report

    sounds like the entire republican party.

  • BigSkullF*ckingDog

    All that money spend and no hookers and blow? WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Barb

      I'm pretty sure that if you spend that kind of money there the hookers and blow are comped.

      • BigSkullF*ckingDog

        Dammit barb, I was just about to correct my spelling!
        Also, question: if the hooker is free than isn't she really just a slut?

        • Barb

          Ask any Wasillian you happen to see.

          • Jus_Wonderin

            I love that Wasillian. Though, I thought they were Wasilliamites,

          • el_donaldo

            Who's the quickest lay? Levi's baby-mommy.

    • terriblyfamous

      You can't throw a commemorative coin in Las Vegas without hitting a pile of hookers and blow.

    • Gleem McShineys

      "YOU GUYSS! WE GET TO FUCK THE CLOWN!!"

  • LastGasp

    "24 bicycles, for a team-building (and bike-building!) exercise: $75,000"

    From what I've read about the Federal government's creative cost reporting over the years I think the above line item should read "24 teams of hookers: $75,000"

    • edgydrifter

      That "Get on your bikes and ride!" line from Fat Bottomed Girls suddenly makes a lot more sense.

  • el_donaldo

    I'm loving how the investigation says that dozens of GSA employees stayed at the resort SEVEN different times as part of "conference planning." Couldn't someone have just sent a couple emails?

    • Jus_Wonderin

      In all honestly, nothing replaces "face to face" unless, of course, it was doggie style.

    • Geminisunmars

      What don't you understand about (government) planning? (Eww. That sounds too Tea Partyish to me. But I refuse to cancel this post.)

    • finallyhappy

      well, normally that is how it is done but then usually the meeting place is awful so no one wants to go more than once anyway. We had our conferences and training at a place that couldn't manage to keep coffee hot and our meals would have the same frozen vegetable "medley" but one meal had soy sauce- Chinese, another meal with some tomato sauce- Italian and one meal with "cream" sauce- French. The next time, I found where the closest coffee place was(7-11) and went each day to get a cup of coffee. I made the big mistake of asking why at a conference center "catering" to the gov;t, the only yogurt was Trix? I got an earful for that

  • Callyson

    Yearbooks for each conference attendee: $8,130

    JFC, yearbooks? Really? Why? Does anyone still have their high school yearbook? I lost mine ages ago…

    • finallyhappy

      I do have my high school yearbook- but if I had a conference yearbook- it would be what stayed in Vegas

    • Steverino247

      I have mine from 70, 71 and 72. I may throw things away, but I don't lose them.

  • http://sciencekick.blogspot.com valthemus

    Has the right already declared "This is it! This will bring the Obama administration crashing down! Scandal!! Impeachment!!" or something equally breathless and wrong?

    • elviouslyqueer

      Oh yes, of course, and duh:

      “Employees congratulating themselves and promoting one of the most politically controversial initiatives of this Administration with taxpayer funds is indicative of the waste that exists in a bloated federal government,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

      • HistoriCat

        Issa is on the case? Thank goodness.

      • Pithaughn

        But not any other kind of government right? Nothing even comes close to this level of outlandishness in say a religious theocracy in say Saudi Arabia ? Just to name one. This is the natural behavior of any government, at least here we find out, get to criticize and miracle of miracles fire the offenders sometimes!
        Had lunch today with tea party official, three times he brought this up , three times compared it to the Solyndra fiasco. Total cost of both , way less than a billion dollars. The graft of the military defense contractors does not faze him one bit though, because ….

        FREEDOMS!!

  • http://www.vinoverve.com Maman

    Yeah equality! Even women can be obnoxious shits!

  • fuflans

    225 units of a Pasta Reception Station ($16 each): $3,600

    is this something you eat or something berlusconi would attend?

    • Blueb4sunrise

      It's a religion thang.

  • Blueb4sunrise

    Johnson Peck Leeds.
    Peck Leeds Johnson
    Leeds Peck Johnson

  • b[redact]opple

    GSA once charged us $400 to re-key the lock on a filing cabinet, so this really isn't too out of line with their conception of money.

    • ALIVE!

      Well, they had to travel to Vegas three times to hire the locksmith, so not really excessive when you think of it.

  • SorosBot

    Is Robert Peck related to Walter Peck of the EPA? Yes it's true; this man has no dick.

  • MissTaken

    So I tied an onion to my belt. Which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a General Services Administration Western Regions commemorative coin, and in those days, General Services Administration Western Regions commemorative coins had pictures of birds fucking a pyramid on 'em.

  • CogitoErgoBibo

    Paying for a clown to show up? I only pay for them to leave. Quickly.

  • SheriffRoscoe

    Professional mindreader? They have such a thing? Tough gig. Even if they were correct I'd fuck with them and tell 'em they were wrong.

  • ttommyunger

    Little-known factoid: frustrated with the limited resources of his "Plumbers" outfit, Nixon came up with the Federal Protective Service. It was to be his private police force with arrest authority (Jurisdiction derived from the participation of any state in our Federal Highway Fund Program). It initially had an initial strength of 3,300 with armed uniformed officers and armed criminal investigators. It was housed under the GSA since it was commonly accepted that it was the most political and corrupt of all the federal agencies. The promise of FPS died with Nixon's Presidency, fortunately, and it is now relegated to supervising contract security guards in and around Federal Property. I know all this because I served seven years as the Region 4 (Eight SE States) SWAT Team Commander. My boss was the late Lou Strom (sound familiar?). I could tell you some stories…..since the Statute of Limitations has run its course.

    • iburl

      Go ahead, do tell. (puts hands under chin).

      • ttommyunger

        Wouldn't want to bore you. Common criminality is amazingly banal.

    • Blueb4sunrise

      [Pours scotches]
      Dooooooooo go on.

      I see Keanu Reeves as you in the film.

      • ttommyunger

        As I said to another esteemed Wonketeer, wouldn't want to bore you, common criminality is crushingly banal.

        • Jus_Wonderin

          I have heard about this. How many years for crushing a banal?????

          • ttommyunger

            I could tell you, but then I'd have to bore you.

          • Jus_Wonderin

            Oh Tommy, you sweettalker!

          • ttommyunger

            Aw shucks! (thrusts hands in pockets, shuffles feet in the dust uneasily)

    • BigSkullF*ckingDog

      Now I'm just imaging you with one I those big battering rams …

      • ttommyunger

        Never had one in my hand. Never conducted a raid. Made only one arrest in that seven years and turned him over to Atlanta PD. Deployed several times in Atlanta Metro and the 8 SE States, but not that kind of action.

  • edgydrifter

    I see no booze on the list. You give me a clown instead of a pint of bourbon and you expect me to be motivated by that? Crazy-face Johnson, you are a failure.

  • http://wonkette.com/ FlownOver

    Hey, lighten up! How can these folks manage all of USAmerica's property if they don't have some $3K bicycles to get from one warehouse to another?

    And the comedian was Louie Gohmert doing his Tea Party variation on Tony Clifton, so, well worth it.

    • HistoriCat

      The celebrity conductor was Gallagher!

  • BaldarTFlagass

    Meh, we did a lot more damage than that during our semi-annual Iraq/Afghanistan Construction Program Management Reviews held in Dubai or Abu Dhabi or Qatar etc. But that was when Bush was prez and all that shit was legal.

  • freakishlywrong

    Real Housewives of the GSA

  • Joshua Norton

    Wassa matter. A Motel 6 in Bakersfield not good enough for them?

    They should have felt the axe blade on the back of their necks the minute "commemorative coins" made an appearance.

    • terriblyfamous

      In what universe do you require six different commemorative items for an event?

    • Biff

      Hey, even my notoriously cheap governmental agency put me up in the Doubletree when I had training in Bakersfield.

  • fuflans

    The planning of the three-day conference itself: $100,000

    this doesn't seem like very good planning.

    • Gleem McShineys

      Yes, where was the pre-planning plan?! Amateurs.

    • kissawookiee

      Clowns and Pasta Reception Stations don't just plan themselves, you know.

    • bikerlaureate

      "About 300 people attended", which works out to over $21 per commemorative coin and (yikes!) $333 worth of planning for each attendee.

      Excuse me while I finish the last couple bites of my coffee grounds…

  • Extemporanus

    Martha Johnson should be arrested for committing a second class Fellini.

  • AlterNewt

    "Pasta Reception Station"

    Enough with the Chris Christie jokes!

  • BaldarTFlagass

    I just got back from a weekend in Vegas. Those prices they paid seem right in line.

  • OneYieldRegular

    What, and not even a Tailhook-style "gauntlet"? Government Vegas scandals just aren't what they used to be.

    • NellCote71

      Meh. If it had been a Republican team-building conference, a lot more rent boys would be involved. And toe-tapping and diaper-changing events.

  • BlueStateLibel

    Look, it's a tough economy for employers trying to recruit and retain employees these days, and all employees expect to be treated lavishly nowadays, what do you expect?

  • MissTaken

    Will someone please take that clown pic down?

    • Barrelhse

      The clown in drag?

  • http://hong-kong-actresses.blogspot.com/ donner_froh

    Was there a choice between the meat medallions and the commemorative coins or could you get both?

  • widestanceromance

    Haliburton/XE (or whatever they're calling themselves now to avoid prosecution) will offer this woman 7 figures to plan their next war crime.

  • meatlofer

    Goverment Credit Cards! How do they work?

  • WiscDad

    Mr. Drysdale must be shitting his pants

  • orygoon

    Wow, do I ever work for the wrong people.

  • Steverino247

    This sounds like something the Air Force would do. GSA forgot they're not part of DoD.

  • http://bluemonkeh.blogspot.com/ BlueMonkeh

    Seriously, all the fiscally prudent GOP d-bags want government to be run like a business….so, DONE.

  • chascates

    No lesbian bars? Oh, wait. That's a GOP thang.

    • WeHaveIssues

      And male hookers for the men's.

  • FakaktaSouth

    The planning of the three-day conference itself: $100,000
    3 “semi-private in-room catered parties,” heh: $5,600

    I am choosing to believe that they actually swapped these two line items to cover up the cool stuff, otherwise, these people really are assholes.

  • ghblowhard

    I'm sure Bruce Springsteen is writing a song about this as we speak.

  • Biff

    Jeebus, Barry warned us about going to Vegas!

  • Limeylizzie

    Who appointed this woman?

    • http://loljazzcatz.blogspot.com/ Chet Kincaid
      • Limeylizzie

        Oh Dear.

        • http://wonkette.com/ Sharkey

          White House Chief of Staff Jacob J. Lew said that President Obama “was outraged by the excessive spending, questionable dealings with contractors, and disregard for taxpayer dollars,” and that he "called for all those responsible to be held fully accountable."

          Sounds a little Republican to me, but I'll give it a pass.

  • Chichikovovich

    Is the punchline "And at these prices, you won't see many more!" ?

  • Chick-Fil-Atheistâ„¢

    …but did she scissor with Natasha Fatale Anna Chapman?!

  • hagajim

    Doesn't GSA stand for Government Spending Account?

  • BigSkullF*ckingDog

    I dont think "sushi rolls" means what we think it means.

  • An_Outhouse

    $7 for sushi rolls is probably on the cheap side in Vegas. Someone was a smart negotiator.

  • An_Outhouse

    Did the investigators indicate what would be an acceptable amount for this field trip?

  • GeorgiaBurning

    $822,751? Wow, the Air Force will need to do without a set of screwdrivers.

  • HippieEsq

    GSA! GSA! GSA! GSA!

  • Aridzona

    Hiring a clown for a conference of government workers . . . you can't make this stuff up!

  • terriblyfamous

    I hope this joke ends in meat medallions.

    • NellCote71

      I hope this joke ends with a definition of a meat medallion.

  • Dashboard Buddha

    So that's where Miss Hathaway went. (You know, she was never the same after Granny died.)

    • joobajooba

      She became Jane Lynch.

  • http://www.gurukalehuru.wordpress.com gurukalehuru

    Sure, gotta have meetings, no problem. But commemorative coins? Yearbooks? What is this, a soccer league for 9 year olds?
    Also, what the fuck is a pasta reception station?

    • NellCote71

      Chris Christy. Several posts earlier.

  • http://www.gurukalehuru.wordpress.com gurukalehuru

    A room full of bureaucrats and they had to hire a clown? Seems like carrying coals to Newcastle, so to speak, to me.

  • Local_Mojo

    Somebody didn't have their thinking caps on!

  • owhatever

    And it never dawned on any of that the bikes all alone might just cause a shitstorm?

  • Schmegeg

    To save money, this even has been rescheduled for the Imperial Palace next year, with BOGOs to the car display and Hash House a Go-Go.

  • DahBoner

    If you stay at the Strosphere and don't mind the noise of a roller coaster above your head, that loft suite is a very reasonable $89 a night…

  • Naked_Bunny

    Carol Burnett is stunned.

  • C_R_Eature

    $822,751? Amateurs!

    We went on a little "Trip" over to the North Africa in '03, only supposed to run in, do our thing and leave. Ended up spending 9 years and it cost one Trillion Dollars! And, we put it all on your credit card! Nobody got fired, We all got fucking promotions! And Rich! AHHAHAHAHAHAHA! Those GSA bozos just didn't steal big enough.
    Sincerely, The Previous Administration (Not to be Named)

    PS: And *chuckle* the best thing *chortle, snort* we conned you into believing that it would Pay for Itself! BWA HAH HAHA HAHAHAAHAH

  • Troglodeity

    "Pasta Reception Station" a.k.a. Ann Romney.

  • rocktonsam

    thankkk God and praise Raygun , no republican never ever participated in any thing like this lavish spending spree
    never

  • Negropolis

    Who is that marvelous bird?

    Horton Hears an Ethics Investigation.

  • Negropolis

    Meh. She probably saved more than $822,751 renegoitating a single lease or finding new space in an existing federally-owned office building. Hell, they could have hired some lesbian dominitrixes for all I care. Meh.

    Jus' sayin'. **yawn**

    Call me when we stop spending $100,000 per lightbulb at an Iraqi super-embassy or some shit, okay? The Pentagon frivilously burns through this kind of cash every hour.

  • http://www.eloquentscience.com EloquentScience

    Fired by a Democratic President. Under a Republication President, the GSA head would have been promoted.

  • oldedinvn

    Oh fuck! Why did I not go into gubbiment to help people?