GSA INVESTIGATION EXPANDS TO BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS

By LARRY MARGASAK Associated Press
Source: U-T News, San Diego

12:01 a.m., April 17, 2012
Updated 4:57 p.m. , April 16, 2012

WASHINGTON The General Services Administration investigator who revealed a wild agency spending spree said Monday he’s investigating possible bribery and kickbacks, and has already recommended criminal charges to the Justice Department. The key figure in the scandal invoked his right to remain silent at the House hearing.

Inspector General Brian Miller made clear that he’s not done investigating GSA current and former officials, following his lengthy report April 2 on an October 2010 Las Vegas conference that cost taxpayers $823,000.

The regional executive who hosted the Western Regions Conference, Jeffrey Neely, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and his chair remained empty the rest of the House Oversight and Government Reform hearing. He could face a criminal investigation.

“We do have other ongoing investigations including all sorts of improprieties, including bribes, possibly kickbacks but I’d have to check on precisely kickbacks,” Miller told the committee.

He added later, “We have recommended criminal charges.”

Toward the end of the 3½-hour hearing, GSA chief of staff Michael Robertson said he had informed the White House of the inspector general’s preliminary findings last year. Robertson testified that he told a White House lawyer, Kim Harris, about the report shortly after May 2011 “when I became aware that the IG had briefed (then-GSA administrator Martha) Johnson.”

After the hearing, Robertson said in a statement, “To clarify the point I made in my testimony today, I only mentioned in passing the existence of an IG investigation as I bumped into a White House staffer that I regularly worked with on GSA issues.”

Committee members from both parties could barely restrain themselves as they sometimes shouted their outrage over the spending. They not only raged on about the overall figure, but at specific taxpayer expenditures for a mind-reader, overpriced commemorative coins, bicycles for a team-building exercise and trips by GSA employees and their family members to the Las Vegas Strip.

Lawmakers said they couldn’t understand why Johnson, the agency head who resigned after Miller’s findings became public, waited for months to take action after receiving a preliminary report almost a year earlier.

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