WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

Analysis: Fallout From GSA's 'Out-Of-Control' Vegas Conference

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Tom Shoop, GovExec editor-in-chief

The General Services Administration -- which manages the federal government's property and many contracts -- is under new leadership this morning. 

As first reported by the Washington Post, GSA chief Martha Johnson resigned yesterday after an investigation concluded her agency improperly paid for an $820,000 conference. It featured a mind reader, bicycle giveaways and after-hour receptions in resort suites. Two of Johnson's deputies were fired and four additional employees have been put on administrative leave.

Tom Shoop, editor-in-chief of Government Executive, talks with WAMU 88.5 Morning Edition host Matt Bush about the fallout from the scandal. Here are some highlights: 

Why this conference was so 'over the top': "That phrase, 'over the top,' actually came in an email from one of the organizers of the conference saying they wanted specifically to organize it as over the top and bigger than any of their previous conferences," Shoop says. "They really went out of their way to be sort of excessive in this."

How the revelation will effect GSA and other government employees: "I think employees across government can expect even tighter scrutiny of conference spending of every kind," Shoop says. "I do think it's important to note that many employees at GSA don't even work for the Public Buildings Service and have nothing to do with this kind of thing, but I think all of them can expect a higher level of scrutiny."

On how the report will affect the Obama Administration: "I think it will be fairly damaging, and it's not the first time that it happened," he says. "Last fall, in the wake of a report that the Justice Department had some alleged overspending on its conferences, the administration cracked down. Now, this conference took place before that, but still, it's yet another story of the kind of waste that really resonates with people." 

Why D.C. government veteran Dan Tangherlini was tapped to take over: "He's known as a very effective longstanding public servant who not only worked in the D.C. government but had experience in the transportation department, and before that served in the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration," Shoop says. "I think they view him as someone who's a very steady hand, as a smart manager who keeps on top of things, so … they have trust and confidence that he'll right the ship."

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