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What Happened In Vegas Costs Federal Properties Manager Her Job

The Las Vegas Strip: sometimes what happens there does come back to bite you.
Ethan Miller
Getty Images
The Las Vegas Strip: sometimes what happens there does come back to bite you.

An inspector general's report about "excessive and wasteful" spending on a 2010 conference in Las Vegas hosted by the federal government's General Services Administration has cost GSA administrator Martha Johnson her job.

The agency, which manages the federal government's buildings and real estate, incurred "excessive pre-conference planning, catering, and other costs, as well as ... luxury accommodations" that were "incompatible with its obligation to be a responsible steward of the public's money," its inspector general concluded.

And, the IG's office added, "as the agency Congress has entrusted with developing the rules followed by other federal agencies for conferences, GSA has a special responsibility to set an example, and that did not occur here."

The conference, according to the IG, was aimed at "offering job skills" to GSA employees from its Western region and exchanging ideas between the "higher ups."

Some examples of the excesses associated with the conference, attended by about 300 people:

-- "$146,527.05 on catered food and beverages."

-- Travel expenses for planning alone "totaled $100,405.37."

-- "During scouting trips, GSA 'VIPs' were shown upgraded suites that they received as a perk for GSA contracting with the M Resort."

-- "GSA spent $6,325 on commemorative coins 'rewarding' all conference participants."

-- One "networking reception" along cost $31,208, or more than $100 per person.

-- GSA spent in all, $686,247 on "travel, catering and vendors" during the four-day conference.

The report was made public Monday. Johnson submitted her resignation letter yesterday as well, acknowledging a "significant misstep," as The Washington Post reports. Also yesterday, two top GSA officials were dismissed and four managers were placed on leave, the Post says.

Note at 10:20 a.m. ET: While the place where the conference — the M Resort Spa & Casino — bills itself as being in Las Vegas and anyone who goes there would think it's in Las Vegas because it's right there with all the other hot spots, it is technically in the adjacent Henderson, Nev.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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