Monday, February 19, 2018
Editorials

Get to bottom of GSA scandal

It should not have taken 11 months for the inspector general of the General Services Administration to release his report on spending public money for an extravagant conference and extensive travel expenses by top GSA officials. Congressional oversight in investigating the GSA's culture of entitlement should move forward. But this is a scandal wholly owned by the Obama administration, which should provide full and immediate disclosure of all the details of wasteful and potentially illegal spending. GSA-gate is the kind of scandal that resonates with Americans, and citizens struggling to pay their bills should not have to also pay the fat expense tabs of globe-trotting GSA officials.

Every drama needs a heavy. Enter GSA executive Jeff Neely, the impresario behind the now-infamous $823,000 agency conference two years ago in Las Vegas. The event turned into a disgraceful bacchanalia of phony awards ceremonies, fancy dinners, private parties and money spent on comedians and mind readers. Much of it was captured in videos and photos of GSA employees, including Neely, making fun of their brazen financial abuses. But the spendthrift ways didn't stop there. Even after the inspector general warned GSA administrators that Neely was under investigation for his excessive spending, Neely continued to go wheels up on extended trips to Hawaii, California's Napa Valley and the South Pacific, with his wife often along for the ride. The inspector general also found evidence of nepotism. Neely's wife, who is not a government employee, played a role in arranging GSA parties, directed the actions of GSA staff, ordered thousands of dollars in food at public expense and even had her own GSA parking space. It's little wonder that Neely has been placed on paid administrative leave and invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination while appearing before a House committee.

This is an ethical stew that is only just coming to boil. Neely and other GSA officials also may find themselves answering inspector general questions concerning additional improprieties including bribes and possible kickbacks. It's bad election-year timing for Obama, but the administration has an obligation to taxpayers to be open about the investigation, acknowledge mistakes and put reforms in place. As bad as a government scandal can be, too often it is the obfuscation and cover-up that makes matters worse. If Obama hasn't learned that lesson by now, he soon will.

 
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