Politics & Policy

Purse Party at the GSA

This is not the first time the General Services Administration has come under scrutiny lately.

Taxpayers covered the costs for a supervisor in the Public Building Service of the General Services Administration to host a direct-sales Miche purse party for her subordinates, according to records from the GSA’s inspector general.

On March 29, 2012, the supervisor at GSA’s Region 10 headquarters “interrupted several GSA employees at their work stations and requested them to go to a GSA conference room to view Miche purses,” the report of investigation says.

“Numerous GSA employees reported that it was inappropriate that [the supervisor] had sent an email from the workplace asking employees to come view Miche purses in a government building, on government time,” the report continues. “Because [the host] had supervisory authority and had requested that GSA employees attend the party and/or gathering, some GSA employees felt pressured to purchase Miche products. One employee admitted to mak[ing] a purchase due to the pressure [he or she] felt.”

Between the party at the office and an additional one conducted at the supervisor’s home, sales exceeded $1,400, and the supervisor received more than $200 in benefits, in the form of free products and discounts, the report says.

No prosecution ensued, although the inspector general suggested that the party may have been a violation of laws governing the basic obligations of public service, the use of government property, and the prohibition of sales to subordinates.

It’s unclear from the records whether the GSA disciplined the supervisor, though the party was also in violation of agency policy. The GSA Region 10 spokesperson did not reply to phone messages or e-mail inquiries from National Review Online.

Tom Schatz, president of Citizens against Government Waste, says that while “the U.S. attorney probably has better things to do,” the GSA should have at least taken its own disciplinary action against the supervisor.

“It’s kind of outrageous that someone would think it was okay to sell anything from a side business in a government office,” Schatz says. “When you’re talking to subordinates and say, ‘Hey, there’s something you might be interested in,’ there’s obviously a little pressure. It’s [also] taxpayer money being used to provide a facility for someone to gain a private benefit, and taxpayers aren’t getting any money out of that — it’s costing them money.”

The GSA has come under scrutiny before during the Obama administration, most spectacularly after revelations that the agency had spent more than $800,000 on a lavish Las Vegas conference in 2010. Records obtained by NRO from the GSA’s inspector general also showed other, smaller abuses. For example, taxpayers covered a $1,550 phone bill for a GSA White House electrician making personal calls to the Dominican Republic, another investigation report said.

“Things like this that happen in the federal government are one of many reasons why taxpayers are so frustrated,” Schatz says, “because they know they could never get away with this at their job.”

— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

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