The main figure in a General Services Administration spending scandal took trips to Hawaii, Napa Valley and the South Pacific islands, all after the agency's inspector general warned top officials about the excesses.
A timeline released by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday shows that GSA executive Jeffrey Neely took five trips totaling 44 days, including a 17-day trip to Hawaii, Guam and Saipan that he and his wife planned as a birthday celebration.
All came after a May 2011 briefing by Inspector General Brian Miller on his preliminary findings. While Miller was still 11 months away from publicly releasing his final report on GSA spending, he issued the early warning to stop the travel. But it did no good.
For a second straight day, a House committee peppered current and former GSA officials with rapid-fire questions about the spending habits of the government's real estate agency.
The outrage once again was bipartisan and many questions were aimed more at a culture of excess in violation of government limits, rather than the taxpayer bill of some $823,000 spent on a Las Vegas conference.
Miller said he's investigating kickbacks, bribery and other matters and has already recommended criminal prosecutions to the Justice Department.
The GSA's top official has resigned, two top aides were fired and at least 10 individuals have been placed on administrative leave. Miller almost seemed overwhelmed by the scope of wrongdoing. "Every time we turned over a stone we found 50 more with all kinds of things crawling out," Miller said.
Family members often were taken along on trips, and an email exchange between San Francisco-based Neely and his wife last November laid out plans for turning the 17-day South Pacific trip -- to Hawaii, Guam and Saipan -- into a celebration.
Neely -- who was placed on administrative leave -- wrote his wife about the February 2012 trip: "Rough schedule per our conversation. Guess this'll be your birthday present?"
She responded, "Its yo birthday We gonna pawty like iz yo birthday!"
GSA officials landed special deals with resorts that got them suites, where parties were held on the taxpayers' dime. There were missing electronic devices such as iPods purchased for prize ceremonies.
Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., who chaired the Transportation subcommittee hearing, summed up his frustration and that of others by telling GSA witnesses the agency suffered from "this culture of fraud, waste, corruption" and possibly cover-ups and inside deals with vendors.
"This certainly is not only a dark day for GSA but a dark day for the U.S. government. We wonder why there is so much distrust in government," he said.
The host of the Las Vegas conference, Neely, invoked his right to remain silent at a hearing Monday and did not appear Tuesday in response to an invitation.