Former GSA leader regrets scandal that 'besmirched' agency's good name

Martha Johnson, who stepped down as GSA head when a report revealed spending abuses at an agency conference, expressed her regrets to a House panel, while another official implicated in the affair invoked his fifth amendment rights.

Martha Johnson, former administrator of the General Services Administration, apologized April 16 for her actions and the now tarnished image of the agency.

“I deeply regret that the exceedingly good work of GSA has been besmirched,” Johnson told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “I will mourn for the rest of my life the loss of my appointment.”

Johnson said she stepped down to show how unacceptable the event were and let a new team of leaders take GSA forward.

Johnson and the other officials involved in the scandal surrounding the Western Regions’ Conference in 2010 testified before the committee. One witness, Jeff Neely, GSA’s Region 9 commissioner who helped in planning the Western Region’s Conference, chose not to speak at the hearing, citing his Fifth Amendment rights.

Johnson told the committee GSA Deputy Administrator Susan Brita requested an investigation of the Western Region’s Conference in October 2010. The inspector general subsequently briefed Brita, with a presentation on the initial findings, and Brita shared the results with Johnson and three senior officials in May 2011.

The hearing was just the first of several that GSA officials will undergo over the next few days. See the full calendar, to date, here.

Johnson said in those interim nine months before receiving the IG report, GSA officials continued work to strengthen the leadership, regain control of the organization and address conference management.

But Johnson said she decided to resign three days before the final IG report was released. She had thought about it for the previous six weeks.

As to the conference, Johnson said it had gone downhill since the late 1990s when it had a clear focus.

Johnson worked as GSA's chief of staff from 1996 to 2001. Under President Barack Obama, she was confirmed as GSA administrator in 2010.

In her second tenure as a senior official at GSA, Johnson said the Western Regions’ Conference was “an economical, straightforward set of training sessions.”

Since then though, the conference had fallen away from its intent, she said.

It “had evolved into a raucous, extravagant, arrogant, self-congratulatory event that ultimately belittled federal workers and would stain the very work that other committed staff and I were preparing to do,” Johnson said.

She said leaders apparently competed to show their people how much entertainment they could provide, rather than how much performance capability they could build.

But “the expensive planning for that conference was well underway when I entered GSA, and I was unaware of the scope,” Johnson said.

The conference cost more than $822,000. GSA employees stayed at the luxury hotel and had a lavish reception costing $31,208.

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) brought a Black Jack vest with the Western Regions’ Conference, a commemorative coin, a yearbook of conference attendees and a book about Las Vegas where the conference was held, all of which he said were a waste of tax dollars.

Later in the hearing, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) said scandals like GSA’s conference make the public distrust their government.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.