GSA Chief Resigns Amid Reports Of Lavish Spending

The head of the General Services Administration resigned yesterday after reports came out about her office spending large amounts of money on, among other things, a four day conference in Las Vegas:

The chief of the General Services Administration resigned, two of her top deputies were fired and four managers were placed on leave Monday amid reports of lavish spending at a conference off the Las Vegas Strip that featured a clown, a mind reader and a $31,208 reception.

Administrator Martha N. Johnson, in her resignation letter, acknowledged a “significant misstep” at the agency that manages real estate for the federal government. “Taxpayer dollars were squandered,” she wrote. At the start of her tenure in February 2010 she called ethics “a big issue for me.”

Public Buildings Service chief Robert A. Peck, a fixture in the Washington area real estate community on his second stint running the department, was forced out, along with Johnson’s top adviser, Stephen Leeds. Four GSA managers who organized the four-day conference in October 2010 have been placed on adminstrative leave, officials said.

The leadership collapse came hours before GSA Inspector General Brian D. Miller released a scathing report on the $823,000 training conference, held for 300 West Coast employees at the M Resort and Casino, an opulent hotel in Henderson, Nev., just south of Las Vegas. From $130,000 in travel expenses for six scouting trips to a $2,000 party in Peck’s loft suite, event planners violated federal limits on conference spending.


Among the “excessive, wasteful and in some cases impermissable” spending the inspector general documented: $5,600 for three semi-private catered in-room parties and $44 per person daily breakfasts; $75,000 for a “team-building” exercise — the goal was to build a bicycle; $146,000 on catered food and drinks; and $6,325 on commemorative coins in velvet boxes to reward all participants for their work on stimulus projects. The $31,208 “networking” reception featured a $19-per-person artisanal cheese display and $7,000 of sushi. At the conference’s closing-night dinner, employees received “yearbooks” with their pictures, at a cost of $8,130.

The GSA also failed to follow regulations on the use of contractors for the conference, promising, for example, the hotel an additional $41,480 in catering charges in exchange for the hotel lowering its lodging cost to honor the government’s limit on room prices.

Apparently this is one of those times where what happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas

FILED UNDER: Bureaucracy, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jenos Idanian says:

    Apparently he missed Obama saying a few years ago that “you can’t go to Vegas on the taxpayer’s dime.”

    Gee, look who else missed that memo…

  2. Mark Ivey says:

    How republican….


  3. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    It’s the Dennis Kozlowski method of throwing an office party, but on the public dime! The only things missing, apparently, were strippers and anatomically-correct ice sculptures of people fornicating and such. Oh, well, maybe next year.

  4. Franklin says:

    Doug: If this is volleyball, the GSA set you up and you spiked it.

  5. Ben Wolf says:

    Grifters gonna grift, no matter where they are. That Martha Johnson felt compelled to tell the universe how important ethics are should have been a big red flag she didn’t give a damn about ethics. The more emphatically someone tells you they’re trustworthy, the tighter you’d better hold on to your wallet.