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Extravagant party planner 'no longer employed with GSA'

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Jeffrey Neely skipped one congressional hearing and pleaded the Fifth Amendment at another.

Jeffrey Neely, the man responsible for planning the General Services Administration's lavish conference in Las Vegas — which led to a federal investigation and the resignation of the agency's director — and four other GSA employees are out of jobs, agency officials told NBC News on Thursday.


Frank Thorp covers the House of Representatives for NBC News. M. Alex Johnson is a reporter for msnbc.com. Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.


Neely, commissioner of the GSA's regional public building office for the southwestern U.S., had been on administrative leave pending an inspector general's review of the agency's Western Regions Conference in 2010, but he had still been collecting a paycheck from the GSA until Thursday.

"As of today, he's no longer employed with GSA," said Adam Elkington, the GSA's deputy press secretary.


Elkington wouldn't say whether Neely left on his own or was pushed out, but Federal Times, a newspaper devoted to coverage of the federal government, reported that he had retired.

 

 

A GSA official told NBC News that four other employees had also left the agency. Those employees weren't identified, but the GSA was known to have been seeking the ousters of nine agency workers in all. The official said Neely has been asked to reimburse the agency for a private in-room party in his hotel suite that he held during the conference.

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Neely invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination last month at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is also looking into the conference.

The conference cost taxpayers almost $823,000 and featured exorbitant extras such as commemorative coins, a mind reader and a bicycle building workshop.  

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Oversight Committee, said Neely's departure isn't the end of the story.

"The problems at GSA may far exceed his involvement in the waste of taxpayer dollars that has outraged Americans," Issa said in a statement. "The committee will continue to examine GSA's culture of wasteful spending."

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, objected to Neely's having remained on the GSA's payroll for weeks. He said he planned to introduce legislation that would allow the "immediate termination of senior level executives who violate their oaths of office by refusing to cooperate with congressional investigations or to testify before Congress."

Martha Johnson resigned as head of the GSA last month as pressure on the agency grew to explain the extravagant conference, which was chronicled in a YouTube video titled "Federal Worker, American Idle," in which GSA employees joked about their lavish expenditures and lack of productivity:

This video, titled "Federal Worker, American Idle," won an award at the General Services Administration's Las Vegas conference, which cost taxpayers nearly $823,000.

Johnson put Neely on leave on March 19, but she didn't resign and discipline other top agency officials until the GSA's inspector general released a report April 2 documenting the lavish spending.

The GSA, which manages federal properties, is also being investigated for how resources were spent on other outings and conferences, including trips to Hawaii, Atlanta and Napa, Calif., and an interns' conference in Palm Springs, Calif., attended by 150 people.

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