The General Services Administration chief Martha Johnson submitted her resignation to the White House today, following the revelation that the GSA’s Inspector General would release a damning report on a lavish GSA conference thrown in Las Vegas for employees.
Before her resignation, Johnson fired Public Buildings Service chief Robert A. Peck and her own top adviser, Stephen Leeds, the Washington Business Journal reports. In addition, four GSA employees who organized the October 2010 conference were placed on administrative leave.
“The Agency . . . has made a significant mis-step. Reports of an internal conference in which taxpayer dollars were squandered led me to launch internal reviews, take disciplinary personnel action, and institute tough new controls to ensure this incident is not repeated,” Johnson’s resignation letter reads. “In addition, I feel I must step aside as Administrator so that the Agency can move forward at this time with a fresh leadership team.”
TheWashington Post reports on the spending scandal:
Organizers spent $835,000 on the event, which was attended by 300 employees. The expenses included $147,000 in airfare and lodging at the hotel for six planning trips by a team of organizers. Among the other expenses were $3,200 for a mind reader; $6,300 on commemorative coin set displayed in velvet boxes and $75,000 on a training exercise to build a bicycle.
Johnson will be replaced by Dan Tangherlini, assistant secretary for management at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Prior to his position at Treasury, Tangherlini served as D.C. city administrator under Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and also held an interim position as general manager for the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.
The news of Peck’s termination in particular has a significant resonance for the design community. Peck, who won the 2012 AIA Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, is frequently cited as a booster for the GSA’s Design Excellence Program. Peck has served as the public face for the GSA’s Green Proving Ground campaign, an effort to steer Public Buildings Service resources toward “sustainable product and service innovations from vendors that we can evaluate and purchase in quantity so as to make the market for the rest of the American building industry,” as he told Realcomm Edge magazine in May 2010.
Peck wrote a post dated April 2 for the GSA blog on the campaign’s building-performance findings. “The first set of results assessing the use of wireless sensor technology in data centers showed significant energy savings,” Peck wrote. "This [Green Proving Ground] study shows a potential to save $61 million annually if the technology were to be applied across our portfolio by tenant agencies, which could reduce carbon emissions by 532,000 metric tons; this is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from approximately 104,000 passenger vehicles.”
Under the Clinton administration, Peck served as the Public Buildings Service chief for five years before moving to the private sector to work for the real estate services firm launched by former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach (the company is now part of Jones Lang LaSalle). Peck returned to the GSA in 2009.
According to TheWashington Post’s Jonathan O’Connell, it is unclear who will lead the Public Buildings Service in Peck’s wake or whether incoming GSA chief Tangherlini will appoint Peck’s replacement.
"The irony of Bob Peck’s ouster from the General Services Administration today over lavish spending is that he spent much of his recent stint there trying to save money," O'Connell reports.