An internal government memo released Friday shows officials of the GSA were aware of a spending problem months before the scandal burst into public view this month.
The GSA's deputy administrator, Susan Brita, emailed agency officials last July that the inspector general found no substantive agenda for the conference. She said that expenses for a clown suit, bicycles used for a team-building exercise, tuxedos and a mind-reader didn't lend themselves to the claim of a substantive conference.
Brita also questioned why a regional administrator in charge of the conference received only a disciplinary letter that "is not even a slap on the wrist."
A major concern in the memo was how The Washington Post, with thousands of readers who are federal employees, would report the story.A GSA spokesman declined to comment, saying the agency preferred to let the email speak for itself. The email was sent to Robert Peck, then the head of the GSA's Public Building Service, with copies to his deputy, David Foley, and another top agency official, Stephen Leeds. Peck and Leeds were fired after the inspector general issued a stinging report this month on the cost of the conference to taxpayers. GSA administrator Martha Johnson resigned in the wake of the report. Eight GSA employees have been placed on administrative leave, including Foley. He is seen in a conference video giving an award to an employee who produced a rap video bragging about the conference spending. The email by Brita, who remains at GSA, was made public by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which will conduct the first of four hearings on GSA's spending practices next week. The agency is in charge of federal buildings and supplies and part of its mission is to save taxpayers money. "The Obama administration has not been upfront with the American people about how long they've known about lavish spending abuses at GSA," said Issa, the committee chairman.