Government Wastes Almost A Million Dollars In Vegas
April 6, 2012
New York Times
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
“Is there is ever a time when the government should saving money, it’s now. We should all be outraged at this.” –KTRN
When a vast but little-known government agency spent $822,000 in taxpayer money to fly 300 bureaucrats to a luxurious spa and casino outside Las Vegas for a conference in October 2010, its leaders had a goal: to make it “over the top,” according to a government report that has set Washington abuzz.
But it was news of the conference entertainment — a clown and a mind reader — that prompted snickering on Tuesday across this city, which always savors a scandal. And with the snickering, there was a question: If they had a clairvoyant, how come nobody saw the backlash coming?
“Arrogance, immaturity, entitlement,” said Kenneth Donohue, who spent nearly a decade investigating cases of fraud and abuse as inspector general of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Plenty of people in Washington (and Las Vegas) were saying much the same on Tuesday, among them Representative John L. Mica, Republican of Florida, and Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, both of whom lead committees that have been investigating the agency in question, the General Services Administration.
The G.S.A., as it is known, is essentially the government’s personal shopper for big-ticket items, like buying and leasing buildings and cars.
Heads rolled there on Monday — the top official, Martha Johnson, fired her top two deputies, and then resigned in disgrace — hours before the agency’s inspector general released a blandly titled “Final Management Deficiency Report,” whose contents were anything but bland about the conference at the M Resort Spa Casino. Its details — $58,808 for “audio visual services;” a “networking reception” where the fare included “Petit Beef Wellington” and 1,000 sushi rolls at $7 apiece; $147,000 for airfare and lodging; a $75,000 “bicycle building project” designed as a “team-building exercise” — were enough to prompt people in Las Vegas to wish, as the old saw goes, that what happened there would have stayed there.