It's getting heated on the Hill. Former and current employees of the General Services Administration (GSA) are being publicly grilled this week in repeated congressional hearings following the disclosure of a scandal involving a lavish 2010 conference for federal employees that carried an $830,000 price tag, billed to America's taxpayers.
Some of the key players in the scandal have accepted culpability, some are keeping quiet, and some we've had the pleasure of watching in the now-infamous videos created for the conference. The acting GSA administrator, Dan Tangherlini, has stated that currently 12 officials have been terminated or placed on leave in connection to the scandal.
To help you sort out the powerful—and powerless—players involved, we've created our own who's who of the scandal:
• Martha Johnson (resigned): As the administrator of the agency, Johnson held the highest GSA position and resigned April 2 when the Office of the Inspector General issued a report on its investigation of conference spending. She had served as chief of staff for the agency under President Bill Clinton; President Barack Obama appointed her administrator in April 2009 (although she wasn't confirmed for the post until February 2010). She said at Monday's House Oversight Committee hearing that she "deeply regrets" the events that occurred and denigrated the actions of GSA employees involved in the conference spending decisions. "[I am] extremely aggrieved by the gall of a handful of people," Johnson said Monday and "will mourn for the rest of my life the loss of my appointment." Members of Congress questioned why Johnson still chose to approve a bonus and an award for Jeff Neely, the conference's organizer, after being made aware of his connection to the excessive spending and why Johnson did not take action sooner. Expect critics to continue to ask what Johnson knew when and why she didn't respond more forcefully and faster.
• Jeff Neely (administrative leave): The former Public Buildings Service regional commissioner for the administration's 9th Region is at the center of the scandal as one of the main organizers of the 2010 conference in question. Unlike some of his former colleagues, Neely has remained altogether silent since being placed on leave (along with three other regional commissioners). Neely on Monday invoked his Fifth Amendment right and remained silent during the House Oversight hearing. Previously, it was discovered that Neely had bragged about an "over the top" conference, suggested in email communications that he and others should take advantage of a lack of spending oversight, and invited non-employees, including his wife, to receive lodging and food on the taxpayers' dime. Neely is one of three officials who have been billed for the cost of an in-room party he hosted. Adding to Neely's developing public profile, photos surfaced this week of Neely and his wife enjoying a luxury suite—including a hot tub—in Las Vegas on one of several site scouting trips to find a host location for the 2010 conference.