Lights, camera, jail time for feds???

Of all the recent government scandals, from the potentially criminal booking problems at some VA hospitals, to extremely serious lapses at the Secret Service, few captured the public imagination like the 2010 Las Vegas spending spree of a handful of General Services Administration officials.

Most Americans at least have a very general idea of what the VA does. Ditto for the Secret Service, though it is not like Hollywood would have us believe....

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Of all the recent government scandals, from the potentially criminal booking problems at some VA hospitals, to extremely serious lapses at the Secret Service, few captured the public imagination like the 2010 Las Vegas spending spree of a handful of General Services Administration officials.

Most Americans at least have a very general idea of what the VA does. Ditto for the Secret Service, though it is not like Hollywood would have us believe. The GSA, however, is hardly a household word. It’s tiny by departmental standards and its duties — from renting buildings to furnishing them — probably elude most taxpayers.

But GSA made it to the “Most Vaunted List” in large part because of a photo posted on social media of a top official in a hot tub, atop a luxury hotel with a view of the Las Vegas strip. The two wine/champagne glasses in the photo were a nice romantic touch, but not so popular with the public, Congress or the courts.

(Photo Credit: Deborah Neely/Google+)

The official is Jeff Neely. He and others were accused of wasting federal funds on a self-described “over the top” regional meeting in Las Vegas. Several officials were fired and the GSA administrator, at the time, resigned. Neely was recently indicted by a San Francisco grand jury and faces major fines and possible prison time.

So what do GSA employees, who rarely get publicity (good or bad), think of the situation? Is it a tempest in a teapot or is justice being done?

When it comes to GSA’s top side, Alan Greenberg has been there, done that. He was GSA’s regional director in New York. Now retired, he’s written a book and frequently blogs about life in the government.

“…I can’t defend Jeff Neely’s incredible lack of judgement, but I can still say something here stinks,” he said in an e-mail. “I was Jeff’s counterpart in New York. I referred cases far more serious (such as payroll fraud) to DoJ through the IG, only to have them returned for agency action. DoJ does not normally expend the time and effort on things like this — a handful of (possibly) fraudulent expense vouchers. It took 2 1/2 years to come up with enough shaky evidence to bring it to a grand jury, and we’re only talking about a few questionable expense vouchers? It makes no sense. Either there’s more to it, involving others, or it is strictly politically driven as a message from the White House, regardless of the cost. This effort has probably cost the government millions already in payroll costs of the staffers trying to develop a case. This probably will not come to trial until after the election, if ever.

“Normally this type of offense would be returned to the agency for administrative action, resulting in a suspension or firing if the evidence justified it. DoJ has far more important criminal issues on its plate. Note that most of these charges have little or nothing to do directly with the infamous conference. Just a few thoughts from a crusty veteran of GSA.” A. G.

Then there is this short but to-the-point commentary from a long-time GSA career official who said:

*”JN [Jeff Neely] disgraced himself and embarrassed every GSA employee. He was a long time GSA executive who knew procurement and travel regulations. No excuses for his bad behavior.”


Nearly Useless Factoid by Julia Ziegler:

Babe Ruth signed with the Orioles on Feb. 14, 1914, at the age of 19. He made $250 a month. (MLB.com)


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