- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2012

More than a dozen General Services Administration (GSA) employees and executives from Washington were listed as attendees for the lavish taxpayer-funded Las Vegas conference in 2010 that featured magic shows, a mind reader and a red-carpet event where federal workers acted like Hollywood movie stars.

The participation of so many Washington-based GSA employees raises questions about the notion that a “rogue” regional office undertook a wild spending spree while officials in the nation’s capital were largely unaware.

“The region went wild on you,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, told acting GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini at a hearing last month, though Mr. Tangherlini took over the agency after the recent resignation of Martha Johnson and was not at GSA when the conference took place.

“They went rogue,” Mrs. Boxer said.

READ MORE: Click here for an inside look at the Las Vegas conference.

In testimony to Congress last month, Ms. Johnson, who apologized and said she took responsibility after the scandal, cited the “gall of a handful of people” who misused tax dollars and twisted contracting rules in explaining the Las Vegas conference.

However, some Washington officials couldn’t have been surprised over the scathing conclusions outlined in a recent audit by the GSA Office of Inspector General on the conference. Indeed, several Washington officials played starring roles at the gathering.

A convention directory for the Las Vegas conference, obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act, listed a total of 13 GSA employees from Washington as participants, including several high-ranking officials.

Two prominent Washington officials, Robert A. Peck, head of GSA’s public buildings service, and Stephen R. Leeds, who was a top adviser to Ms. Johnson, were forced out of the agency.

It’s unclear whether several others from Washington who not only attended but played prominent roles at the conference face any fallout.

This week, The Times released hours of video from the convention that were disclosed by GSA in response to an open-records request. The videos featured one clip of the GSA’s chief people officer, Anthony E. Costa, participating in a spoof in which he introduces a clone he says he got through a federal acquisition schedule.

Another speaker at the expensive Las Vegas conference was Jon A. Jordan, deputy commissioner for the GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service.

Yet another attendee listed in the directory from Washington, Bill Guerin, assistant commissioner in the GSA’s public buildings service, was appointed in 2009 to oversee billions of dollars in spending for the agency under the federal stimulus program.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has been investigating GSA conference expenditures, said the attendance of officials from Washington at the conference suggested bigger problems within the federal agency.

“Senior officials from D.C. who attended the Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas did not seem to think it was outside the norm, and other employees from GSA have also indicated that the same type of waste is business as usual,” Mr. Issa said.

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