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Congressman: GSA administrator's wife had role in lavish spending

April 19, 2012|By Morgan Little
  • Jeff Neely, regional commissioner for the General Services Administration's Public Buildings Service Pacific Rim Region, takes the 5th Ammendment and refuses to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Jeff Neely, regional commissioner for the General Services Administration's… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

WASHINGTON – As the investigation into lavish spending by the General Services Administration widens beyond the $823,000 conference held in Las Vegas in 2010, new claims have been levied at GSA administrator Jeff Neely regarding official travel that included his wife.

Neely, silent since invoking the 5th Amendment at the onset of a series of congressional hearings on the GSA, has been the focus of heavy criticism over his role not only in the planning of the Las Vegas conference, but also his personal conduct at the agency.

In a document titled “Timeline of Investigation and Ongoing Travel Abuses,” released by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Neely is shown to have continued his high-flying ways even after GSA Inspector General Brian Miller warned Ruth Cox, a regional administrator, to clamp down on Neely’s travel.

Miller’s warning, which came less than a year ago in August, was followed by several Neely excursions: A nine-day trip to Hawaii for a “Road Show;” a five-day conference in Atlanta; a 17-day trip to Hawaii, Guam and Saipan;  a conference in Atlanta; another trip to Hawaii; and a four-day meeting in Napa, Calif.

The trip to Hawaii, Guam and Saipan came after Miller issued a specific warning about that trip in December three months before it took place.

Neely was accompanied by his wife during the 17-day trip, and though Miller is investigating whether Neely paid for her expenses as the law requires, the couple referred to the trip as a “birthday present” over email correspondences, with Neely’s wife writing “It’s yo birthday … We gonna pawty like iz yo birthday!”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight on Government Reform, said Monday at the committee’s hearing that Neely’s wife “personally handled party arrangements, directed the actions of federal employees and ordered thousands of dollars of food at taxpayer expense.”

“Even today, we found out that the wife of the regional commissioner [Neely] had a parking space throughout the year of 2012 at the federal building,” Miller said Wednesday during a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Miller said the investigation includes an effort to determine whether laws were broken. “We do have other ongoing investigations including all sorts of improprieties, including bribes, possibly kickbacks,’’ Miller told the Senate’s House Oversight and Government Reform panel Wednesday.

A transcript of an interview conducted by an investigator with Neely was also released during Wednesday’s hearing, in which Neely tries to defend his claim that a $2,717 party thrown in his Las Vegas hotel suite was an awards event for employees.

“This is an award recognition ceremony,” Neely said. “That’s what this was. That’s … not a Neely party right. I actually … it was in a suite that wasn’t even mine.”

After confronting Neely with an email stating that he and his wife were hosting a party, complete with alcohol and food, without referencing awards once, the investigator asked him, “You realize how this looks?”

“I get that it looks funny,” Neely said.

The revelations have not amused members of Congress, who have been infuriated by lists of expenses Neely and other administrators charged to the GSA, including clowns, mind-readers and commemorative coins.

morgan.little@latimes.com

Original source: Congressman: GSA administrator’s wife had role in lavish spending

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