Nightly News | April 16, 2012
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now to our ongoing series of reports, THE FLEECING OF AMERICA , keeping an eye on waste, fraud and abuse of your tax dollars. The former head of the General Services Administration , a low-profile agency normally that manages federal government buildings and purchasing -- apologized for a lavish conference in Las Vegas , and today it was Congress ' turn to get involved. Lisa Myers has our report.
LISA MYERS reporting: Today what happened in Vegas ended up on Capitol Hill . And the GSA official in charge of the lavish conference, Jeff Neely , asserted his right to remain silent six times.
Mr. JEFF NEELY: Mr. Chairman, I respectfully decline to answer any questions here today based upon my Fifth Amendment constitutional privilege.
MYERS: But Neely seemed less reticent about his Vegas experience in these photos posted on his wife's Google+ page. They appear to be enjoying a luxurious suite at the M resort, which hosted the conference during a scouting trip the year before. The conference, which cost taxpayers almost a million dollars, drew bipartisan scorn.
Representative JASON CHAFFETZ (Republican, Utah): When you see this widespread abuse of money, that's where there's frustration just steaming out of our ears.
Representative ELIJAH CUMMINGS (Democrat, Maryland): It's not your money. It's the taxpayers' money.
MYERS: Taxpayers paid for black jack vests for conference leaders and a commemorative coin and Vegas book for all 300 attendees. Today, former GSA administrator Martha Johnson , who resigned over the scandal, took responsibility.
Ms. MARTHA JOHNSON: I personally apologize to the American people .
MYERS: Republicans question the $9,000 bonus Neely was given last year while he was under investigation.
Representative DARRELL ISSA (Republican, House Oversight Committee Chair): How can you justify a bonus for somebody that you knew at the time of his bonus was at the center of this misconduct?
MYERS: Johnson said Neely had performed well in other key areas and she "didn't want to interfere with the investigation. Neely 's now on administrative leave but still getting his $179,000 salary. The inspector general whose report triggered this spending scandal, says he's also investigating possible bribes and kickbacks at GSA . The agency's supposed to save taxpayers' money. Lisa Myers , NBC News, Washington.