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Hearing of the Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee - Extravagant Spending at a 2010 GSA Conference


Location: Washington, DC

Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, a senior Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, made the following statement during a hearing in the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management regarding the extravagant spending at a 2010 GSA conference:

"Thank you Mr. Chairman. At today's hearing, we have an opportunity to continue to review the actions of GSA employees who organized and participated in the 2010 conference in Las Vegas.

Yesterday, at a hearing before the Oversight Committee, we heard testimony from Inspector General Brian Miller, who is here again today. Mr. Miller, I want to thank you again for bringing to light this gross abuse of taxpayer funds and for your office's year-long investigation of this issue.

Mr. Miller's report yesterday was very troubling. For example, he described the actions of Jeff Neely, a career GSA employee for many years and a senior-level executive in the Pacific Rim region based in San Francisco. Although Mr. Neely is not the only official implicated in this investigation, his role as the host of the 2010 conference has raised significant questions.

According to the Inspector General's investigation, Mr. Neely engaged in a pattern of misconduct that included violating federal travel and procurement rules, holding lavish parties in luxury suites, and allowing his wife and other non-government officials to participate in some of these events at taxpayer expense.

As I said at yesterday's hearing, Mr. Neely disregarded one of the most basic tenets of government service--he treated taxpayer funds as if they were his own.

We also heard troubling new accounts from the Inspector General that Mr. Neely may have retaliated against other GSA employees who tried to object to his actions and rein in this lavish spending. According to one witness who spoke with the Inspector General, one GSA employee was "squashed like a bug" when she tried to object to Mr. Neely's actions.

As the Inspector General also told us, one witness was so scared of potential reprisal from Mr. Neely that she asked to be treated as a confidential informant.
These reports, although they certainly do not justify Mr. Neely's actions, may help explain why these improper activities apparently went on for so long. Witnesses reported to the Inspector General that the conference in Las Vegas in 2010 was just the latest in a series of conferences over many years where lavish and extravagant spending had become the norm.

As we heard yesterday, this issue was not brought to light until it was reported to the Inspector General by the Deputy Administrator of GSA, Susan Brita, who is here today. Ms. Brita, who is a top-level Democratic political appointee, should be commended for her actions, not only in reporting these abuses, but also for insisting that action be taken to address them.

At yesterday's hearing, Mr. Neely invoked his right under the Fifth Amendment to remain silent, and the Committee excused him from testifying. The Inspector General also confirmed for the Oversight Committee that has referred this case to the Department of Justice.

Today, we will have the opportunity to continue examining this issue in detail, including hearing from other GSA officials who were involved, including Bob Peck, the former Commissioner of GSA's Public Building Service, who apparently condoned and sanctioned the actions of Mr. Neely.

Finally, let me close by noting that there are millions of government workers across the country who dedicate their entire lives to public service. They are scrupulous, honest, and hardworking, and we should not use today's hearing to tarnish their reputations. We should thank them for their hard work and honor their service.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman."

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