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GSA aide may face criminal probe

A top official of the General Services Administration, already on leave for his role in lavish agency spending, has been referred to the Justice Department for a potential criminal investigation, a congressional committee official said Friday.

Whether the referral was connected to the activities of the GSA executive, Jeffrey Neely, in an $823,000 GSA spending spree for a 2010 conference at a Las Vegas resort wasn't known, the committee official said on condition of anonymity.

Neely, a senior executive at the GSA, was recently placed on leave by the agency's new management from his job as regional commissioner of the Public Buildings Service for the Pacific Rim. He was largely responsible for the Las Vegas conference.

GSA Inspector General Brian Miller has told several congressional committees investigating the agency that there have been criminal referrals.

An internal government memo released Friday shows GSA officials were aware of a spending problem months before the scandal burst into public view this month.

The GSA's deputy administrator, Susan Brita, emailed agency officials last July that the inspector general found no substantive agenda for the conference. She said that expenses for a clown suit, bicycles used for a team-building exercise, tuxedos and a mind-reader didn't lend themselves to the claim of a substantive conference.

Brita also questioned why a regional administrator in charge of the conference received only a disciplinary letter that "is not even a slap on the wrist."

The email was sent to Robert Peck, then the head of the GSA's Public Building Service, with copies to his deputy, David Foley, and another top agency official, Stephen Leeds.

Peck and Leeds were fired after the inspector general issued a stinging report earlier this month on the cost of the conference to taxpayers.

GSA administrator Martha Johnson resigned in the wake of the report. Eight GSA employees have been placed on administrative leave, including Foley.

The email by Brita, who remains at GSA, was made public by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which will conduct the first of four hearings on GSA's spending practices next week.

Neely's attorney, Preston Burton, said his client will assert his right to remain silent at the hearing next week.

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