The feds have ordered the General Services Administration to reinstate an official who was fired last year for his connection to the agency’s lavish 2010 Las Vegas conference, according to the Washington Post.
Paul Prouty was accused by GSA officials last year of knowing “about the questionable and excessive expenditures,” the report notes. They added that if he didn’t know, he should have.
“But the agency failed to prove that the career civil servant in charge of federal buildings in the Rocky Mountain region was guilty of misconduct,” the Post notes, citing a ruling by the Merit Systems Protection Board.
The GSA will also give Prouty 11 months back pay.
Administrative judge Patricia Miller in her ruling argued that because Prouty didn’t actually attend or plan the swanky 2010 Las Vegas conference, he shouldn’t be held responsible.
“We are disappointed with the . . . ruling,” the GSA said in a statement. The agency “has taken strong action against those officials whom we believe were responsible and will continue to do so where appropriate.”
Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini “has taken significant steps over the past year to improve internal controls and oversight,” the statement added.
A spokeswoman with the agency says they’re contemplating whether to appeal the ruling.
William Bransford, Prouty’s attorney, argues his client was a fall guy, adding that the Obama administration was simply trying to distance itself from the scandal.
“Some of the people making decisions on discipline were responding to the fact that the conference had become a political issue,” Bransford said. “They needed as many scapegoats as they could find.”
Although much of Prouty’s staff attended the conference, and he “engaged in some of the planning,” Bransford explained, “GSA was unable to provide any evidence of misconduct.”
And for those of you who are a little hazy on the details of the GSA scandal, here’s a refresher:
The $823,000 conference was billed as a training event. But it quickly became an embarrassment for the Obama administration after GSA Inspector General Brian Miller revealed in a report last April a four-day junket that spun out of control.
Lodging at an opulent hotel, entertainment by a $3,200 mind reader, after-hours parties in 2,400-square-foot loft suites, a $7,000 sushi reception, a bicycle-building exercise — all took place at taxpayers’ expense. The planning included about six scouting trips, at a tab of $130,000.
Administrator Martha N. Johnson resigned under pressure and her top deputy, Public Building Service chief Robert Peck, was fired. Multiple congressional hearings revealed a casual spending culture at the GSA that made a mockery of the administration’s pledge to run a more efficient civil service.
Prouty was one of four regional chiefs who were fired or forced to resign. He had a 39-year career at GSA, including a year as acting agency chief when Obama took office. He appealed his termination to the merit board last June.
The judge noted that although Prouty was aware of the conference, there’s nothing to prove that he was aware of the more outlandish expenses.
“The appellant’s testimony was unwavering, detailed, precise and forthright,” the judge wrote.
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