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The PJ Tatler

Bridget Johnson


August 8, 2012 - 7:33 am

D.C.’s delegate to Congress has asked the acting administrator of the General Services Administration, now famous for its lavish taxpayer-funded employee events, to use in-house event planners instead of outside contractors in the future.

“I do not believe that federally employed event planners would have spent $20,578.24 on drumsticks, $28,364.45 on picture frames, and $7,810.24 on shadowbox frames, as the November 17, 2010, conference had, particularly during a recession,” Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D) wrote to Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini.

Norton was one of the members questioning a GSA representative at a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week on wasteful spending by GSA for a November 17, 2010, awards ceremony in Crystal City, Va., one month after the GSA Las Vegas conference that grabbed headlines and was the subject of prior committee hearings.

A total of $268,732 of taxpayer money was spent for the one-day Virginia event.  The largest single cost, $104,484.17, was a payment to an outside event planner, although GSA had event planners on staff.

“Without the cost of the outside event planner, the drumsticks, the picture frames, and the shadowbox frames, none of which were integral to the award ceremony, the cost of the ceremony would have been $71,494.90, less than one-third of the cost of the conference, and still would have included catering, room rental charges, a food and drink reception with live music, transportation, and more,” Norton wrote.

“I recommend that GSA and other federal agencies use only a fairly small cadre of internal federal employees who could be dedicated to conference planning and perhaps similar events as the agencies find appropriate.  Such a change could help agencies and federal employees more fully understand the scope, size, and appropriate amenities for federal agency conferences and would ensure greater compliance with executive and congressional guidance,” she continued, adding that she would share her recommendations with Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeff Zients as well.

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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