- Obama military strategy too weak for future security, panel reports
- Sen. Tom Coburn vows to slow down budget-busting bills ahead of recess
- Obama fantasizes about more executive power, signs new order on federal contractors
- Clintons call Klein, Halper, Kessler ‘a Hat Trick of despicable actors’: report
- Boehner accuses Obama of ‘legacy of lawlessness’
- Pro-marijuana group claims responsibility for Brooklyn Bridge flag swap
- Young adults shun Obamacare mostly due to cost: survey
- Stabbing attack on transgender girl, 15, was ‘bias motivated,’ police say
- LGBT adults still lean overwhelmingly toward Democratic Party
- Lawmakers rattled by Syria genocide horrors, call on Obama to act
GSA: Vegas attendee not in on discipline
Questions raised about role
Question of the Day
General Services Administration officials have been quick to point out that they are taking strong disciplinary action against those responsible for a lavish $823,000 Las Vegas conference funded by taxpayers that featured a red-carpet party, magic shows and in-room parties.
But the official who is in charge of the agency’s Human Resources Department, which oversees discipline, also was among those who attended, raising questions about whether he ought to be participating or even overseeing actions taken against fellow attendees.
While there’s no indication that Tony Costa, the GSA’s chief people officer, helped plan the 2010 conference or took part in any contracting decisions, he and other GSA executives from Washington who attended would have been hard-pressed to miss the signs of extravagance and wasteful spending at the Las Vegas resort.
Not only did Mr. Costa attend the convention, but he starred in a video where he introduced a singing clone.
A GSA spokesman portrayed Mr. Costa as having no role in the conference planning or in the investigations that surfaced after the recent release of a GSA Office of Inspector General report detailing the wasteful spending.
“Tony Costa was not involved in the planning of the Western Regions Conference and was not involved in the disciplinary process for those responsible,” GSA spokesman Adam Elkington said. “GSA took strong personnel actions, including removals, administrative leave and suspensions, for those responsible.
“GSA has accepted or implemented all of the recommendations of the [inspector general] report and we will continue to review our operations to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
GSA officials did not indicate, in response to questions from The Washington Times, whether Mr. Costa, who was incoming chief people officer at the time of the convention, ever relayed any concerns about what he saw in Las Vegas to other officials in Washington.
Scott Amey, general counsel for the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, a Washington-based watchdog group, said the GSA is right not to have Mr. Costa or other attendees at the conference involved in personnel actions.
“The GSA should not have any employee who took part in the conference’s planning or attended the event … conducting investigations or taking actions against employees,” he said. “GSA will really be in the hot seat if there is an appearance of a conflict of interest or questionable actions in handling the conference debacle.”
In a video from the conference, Mr. Costa, then incoming chief people officer, apologizes backstage to a colleague for being too busy to “friend” him on Facebook.
“It’s gotten so bad I’ve had to get some help,” Mr. Costa said, adding that he just got a clone from a government acquisition service schedule. A man wearing a beige cap looking bald - like Mr. Costa - entered the scene and Mr. Costa introduced him as “Tony Clonesta.”
Mr. Costa walked onto the Las Vegas stage in the hotel where the convention was held to the song “Double Vision” by rock band Foreigner before beginning a speech about collaboration. He began his roughly half-hour presentation by telling GSA employees, “I hope you’re enjoying the conference. I’ve been hearing a lot about stuff that’s been going on so far. You guys sound like you’re having a big time.”
Adding that he had been a “newbie” to the Western Region Conference two years earlier, he said, “I’m pretty confident that you’re going to have fun.”
According to the agency’s website, the GSA’s Office of the Chief People Officer oversees programs, policies and operations for GSA’s 12,000 employees, as well as providing human resources support to another 11,000 employees in the Office of Personnel Management, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the National Credit Union Administration and other agencies.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Final guilty plea in landmark federal bid-rigging case
- Patent workers paid to exercise, shop, do chores: report
- Power outage at Tennessee VA reveals safety risks for patients, staff
- House federal records plan would prevent repeat of IRS email scandal
- Whistleblowers flood VA with lawsuits despite apology
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Ted Cruz
Israel saves its enemies; Hamas endangers its friends
- Inside the Ring: Israel surprised by Hamas tunnel network
- Army's 3-D printed bombs to create 'a whole new universe' of lethal capabilities
- GOP leaders delay border bill, leave Obama in control
- Chicken pox outbreak puts illegal immigrant facility on lockdown
- CIA admits improperly hacking Senate computers in search of Bush-era information
- Report: 40% of weapons sent to Afghanistan are unaccounted for
- CRUZ: A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza
- Israel surprised by Hamas tunnel network
- 3 African leaders cancel trip to U.S. over Ebola outbreak; Obama still plans summit
- GOP report sees ties between rich donors, green 'nonprofits'
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world