Good news: GSA exec fired in Vegas scandal getting his job back

posted at 6:41 pm on March 13, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

With 11 months of back pay, y’all! Nice gig if you can get it.

The General Services Administration was ordered this week to reinstate a senior executive who lost his job last year amid revelations of lavish spending at a Las Vegas conference.

GSA officials had told Paul Prouty that he “knew or should have known about the questionable and excessive expenditures” that embarrassed the Obama administration when they were revealed last year. But the agency failed to prove that the career civil servant in charge of federal buildings in the Rocky Mountain region was guilty of misconduct, the Merit Systems Protection Board ruled.

Meet Paul Prouty. He has a 39-year career with General Services Administration, and briefly served as acting administrator of the entire agency during the Obama transition. He was head of the Rocky Mountain Region 8 of the GSA, which is one of 11 regional offices across the country. Rocky Mountain Region was one of only four regions that sent dozens of employees to the infamous 2010 Western Regions Conference—an $800K bonanza featuring psychics, expensive catered meals, hot tub parties, and lavish hotels. Prouty attended at least one planning meeting for the conference, though he did not attend the conference due to a conflict. Dozens of his employees attended, but the judge in his appeals case thought he seemed like he didn’t have much to do with it and was probably telling the truth. And, who assumes the head of a regional office should know what’s going on in that regional office, anyway?

In her ruling, Miller wrote that one of Prouty’s aides met with him a few times in 2010 about the conference but did not brief him on details of purchasing, contracting or procurement. Prouty told the judge he was not heavily involved in the planning and was unaware that the conference cost had ballooned. She said she believed him.

Because of a conflict, Prouty did not fly to Las Vegas. When the inspector general’s staff interviewed him during its investigation, they found little involvement in the conference details.

He was aware that attendees were given commemorative coins, but Prouty thought they were an appropriate way to recognize employees for their work carrying out the president’s stimulus plan.

Prouty attended one planning meeting for the conference in March 2010, but the judge said many details of what would be lavish expenses had not been worked out.

“The appellant’s testimony was unwavering, detailed, precise and forthright,” the judge wrote.

Hey, he was only head of a regional office and former head of the entire GSA, an agency tasked with finding and implementing cost-minimizing strategies for the rest of the government. Why should he be responsible for making sure a conference doesn’t flagrantly waste taxpayer money on his watch? It’s like President Obama being responsible for the outcomes of any of his own policies. Preposterous!

Although, I suppose he has a point if he points to the rest of the government and says, “Wasting $800K is actually leading the way in waste-savings over what most of the agencies do every day.” It’s like a “cut” to only waste $800K on champagne and commemorative coins if the agency was planning to waste $1 million.


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