In Washington, there are a few standard rules of engagement. Rule 436 is “if you are going to spend taxpayer dollars on lavish vacations, do not make a mocking video boasting that you will buy those things the agency can’t afford and “never be under OIG investigation.” This week the Office of Inspector General (OIG) proved the difference between rap and reality — it issued a damning report on the $820,000 spent by Public Buildings Service’s western region at the M Resort Spa and Casino in Henderson, Nevada.
The report has already caused the resignation of General Services Administration chief Martha Johnson. Johnson previously dismissed two deputies and suspended other career employees over the affair.
The report on the conference of this tiny agency within the General Services Administration contains an incredible list of excessive items, including more than $6,000 on commemorative coins, $8,000 on a “yearbook” and $3,200 for an in-house mind reader. What struck me most was the over $130,000 on pre-convention preparation, including visits to the proposed sites that cost $100,000, with another $30,000 for catering. It also included a consultant contract for $12,000 to help find a location they would repeatedly visit. I fail to understand why our federal building employees cannot find a resort on their own, particularly when resorts have staff to facilitate such conferences.
I am happy to report that this trip to Canada and Vermont was brought in at a cost less than $820,000, though we did order a second helping of Frickles last night. Nevertheless, I have asked our guest editors to investigate all of the expenses of this trip in our commitment to a transparent public-regarding blog. (I will note that the over-consumption of maple syrup was done yesterday without the knowledge or approval of the parents in the Depot Restaurant in Randolph).