GSA chief resigns over taxpayer-funded spending spree

Agency billed $835,000 for comedians and clowns in Vegas

The chief of the General Services Administration is resigning and two of her top deputies have been fired in advance of a damning report on excessive spending at the agency, such as a conference at a lavish Las Vegas resort that included a mindreader, a comedian, and a clown.

The Washington Post reports:

GSA Administrator Martha Johnson submitted her resignation to the White House on Monday. Public Buildings Service chief Robert A. Peck and Johnson’s top adviser, Stephen Leeds, were forced out Monday, White House officials said. Four GSA employees who organized the four-day conference have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.

The resignations come as the agency’s inspector general prepares to release a scathing report on the training conference, held at a luxury hotel outside Las Vegas in October 2010.

Organizers spent $835,000 on the event, which was attended by 300 employees. The expenses included $147,000 in airfare and lodging at the hotel for six planning trips by a team of organizers. Among the other expenses were $3,200 for a mind reader; $6,300 on commemorative coin set displayed in velvet boxes and $75,000 on a training exercise to build a bicycle.

The scandal is an embarrassment for an administration that has frequently urged private citizens not to blow money in Las Vegas.

"Responsible families don’t do their budgets the way the federal government does," Obama said at a town hall meeting in 2010. "Right? When times are tough, you tighten your belts.  You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize.  You make tough choices.  It’s time your government did the same."

And then, at a 2009 town hall meeting, Obama said: "You can't get corporate jets, you can't go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime. There's got to be some accountability and some responsibility, and that's something that I intend to impose as President of the United States."