GSA told to reinstate 2nd executive fired over Vegas junket
WASHINGTON — The General Services Administration has been ordered to reinstate a second senior executive who was fired in a spending scandal that revealed a culture of excess at the agency.
James Weller, a retired Army colonel who was in charge of federal buildings for GSA's Southwest region, lost his job in 2012 amid revelations that a Las Vegas “training” conference was little more than an extravagant junket for 300 employees.
But a Merit Systems Protection Board judge ruled that GSA officials failed to prove that Weller, 60, was guilty of misconduct. While he attended the four-day Western Regions conference in 2010 and flew to Las Vegas for one of eight dry runs to plan it, he was not involved in the planning or aware that taxpayers paid $823,000 for the event, the judge ruled. He awarded Weller 19 months of back pay.
“Outside of his appearance at the final ‘dry run' meeting, the appellant possessed no knowledge regarding the ⅛planning meetings⅜ until well after the fact, and thus was not in a position to contest or otherwise limit the travel costs associated with their frequency and composition,” Administrative Judge Ronald Weiss wrote in a 38-page decision released in March.
A year ago, the merit board awarded Paul Prouty, a career civil servant in charge of public buildings in GSA's Rocky Mountain region, to be reinstated with back pay.
GSA has appealed both rulings.