Case in point: Jeff Neely, Public Buildings Commissioner for Region 9 of the General Service Administration (GSA).
Mr. Neely was one of the GSA officials largely responsible for wasting nearly a million taxpayer dollars on a lavish Las Vegas conference in 2010. The conference included frivolous spending on clowns, mind readers, and expensive food and drinks, all on the taxpayer dime.
In addition, according to information from GSA’s inspector general, Mr. Neely has a history of wasteful spending, including a nine-day taxpayer funded trip to Hawaii so Mr. Neely could participate in an hour-long ribbon-cutting ceremony; a business trip to Napa Valley that lasted four days and cost $40,000; and an intern conference in Palm Springs that totaled $150,000.
The inspector general also discovered that thousands of dollars of gifts purchased by Mr. Neely’s office for an employee awards program had gone missing. Among those items was an iPod, which was eventually recovered after investigators tracked down its whereabouts: Mr. Neely’s relative’s back pocket.
Despite these and other documented offenses, including email dictates from Mr. Neely that the Las Vegas conference should be “over the top,” Mr. Neely still collects a sizable pay check from the American people. In fact, as a career Senior Executive Service civil servant, Mr. Neely makes roughly $170,000 a year, placing him in the top percentile of pay among government workers.
Mr. Neely’s continued compensation throughout this investigation only adds insult to injury. Despite this, according to GSA’s Office of Congressional Affairs in cases like Jeff Neely’s, “there are no mechanisms available to GSA to remove the individuals from the payroll while the disciplinary process progresses."
That policy wouldn’t stand in the private sector and it shouldn’t stand for our senior executive public sector employees.
To ensure that senior executives like Mr. Neely never again collect pay while under investigation for serious charges of ethical and/or criminal violations, I will propose legislation that will give federal agencies the discretion to freeze their pay until they are cleared or convicted of wrongdoing.
If cleared, they’ll get back pay plus interest.
If convicted, then taxpayers will know that in the wake of a scandal, their hard-earned money wasn’t spent lining the pockets of government executives who violated the public trust and compromised the good standing of the majority of government employees who are admirably advancing the public good on behalf of the federal government.
The American taxpayer took a proverbial bath under the leadership of Mr. Neely, losing more than a million dollars under his watch. Now that he’s under ours, we will do everything we can to make sure it never happens again.
Rep. Kelly (R-Pa.) is a member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.