GSA Overspending Scandal: "Aggrieved by the Gall"

The General Services Administration (GSA) is under investigation for spending $823,000 at a Las Vegas conference in 2010.  The GSA is responsible for purchasing products, transportation, and office space for other government agencies, and ironically, is charged with developing cost-containment policies.

Martha Johnson, head of the GSA as of February 2010, has resigned amid the controversy.  In her testimony to Congress, Johnson admitted that the Western region training conference "evolved into a raucous, extravagant, arrogant, self-congratulatory event that ultimately belittled federal workers and would stain the very work that other committed staff and I were preparing to do." She also said that "[T]he expensive planning for that conference was well under way when I entered GSA, and I was unaware of the scope" and that she was "extremely aggrieved by the gall of a handful of people to misuse federal tax dollars, twist contracting rules and defile the great name of the General Services Administration."

Johnson's strong statement was in sharp contrast to that of Jeffrey Neely, a GSA executive who evoked his Fifth amendment right not to answer any questions. As reported by CNN, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland criticized Neely specifically:

"'In one e-mail...Mr. Neely invited personal friends to the conference, writing, and I quote -- and this is simply incredible -- quote: "We'll get you guys a room near us, and we'll pick up the room tab. Could be a blast." End of quote. He then went on and wrote this -- "I know I'm bad, but as Deb and I often say, why not enjoy it while we have it and while we can. Ain't gonna last forever." End of quote. Well, Mr. Neely, it stops now.'"

Included in the evidence of the overspending scandal is this video, showing a GSA employee's joke about perks and then an award given to that employee at a GSA dinner at the conference.

Discussion Starters:

  • Review the steps for ethical decision making. Which would have helped these administrators re-think their choices?
  • How do you assess the GSA employee's video and award? Is this incriminating, just office fun, or something else?
  • Grammar Check: The section above about Rep. Cummings has a quote within a quote within a quote. Is it punctuated correctly?