GSA scandal widens

Jim McElhatton, investigative reporter for The Washington Times, has documented that the embattled General Services Administration is facing investigations into as many as 77 conferences and awards ceremonies over the years.

New detail emerged Wednesday about a lavish one-day gathering in Crystal City costing more than a quarter million dollars for hundreds of employees, including a top agency deputy hailed just months ago as a taxpayer hero.

At a congressional hearing into the latest scandal, Rep. John Mica, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said both the GSA’s Office of Inspector General and the House committee are investigating a host of potentially wasteful conferences at the agency, which handles federal contracting and oversees the government’s vast real estate holdings.

The first serious signs of trouble in the agency came to light earlier this year when the GSA became embroiled in a controversy over a more than $800,000 Las Vegas conference featuring clowns, a mind reader and a red carpet party.

A second conference scandal emerged last month when Congress learned from the GSA’s inspector general, Brian Miller, about the one-day, $250,000 conference in Crystal City. The attendees included a GSA deputy administrator, Susan Brita. She was called a hero by one lawmaker for helping to expose the Las Vegas conference.

Details from the Crystal City conference came to light as the GSA told the inspector general that it was about to release information about the event in response to an open-records request. The Washington Times filed a Freedom of Information Act request on the Crystal City event in May. Mr. Miller said his office also received an anonymous tip about the conference in May.

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