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]

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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