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Snacks take big bite out of DOJ budget

It doesn't rival the Pentagon's $600 toilet seat, but the Justice Department can fork over a mean $4 meatball.
/ Source: The Associated Press

It doesn't rival the Pentagon's $600 toilet seat, but the Justice Department can fork over a mean $4 meatball.

An internal Justice audit, released Friday, showed the department spent nearly $7 million to plan, host or send employees to ten conferences over the last two years. This included paying $4 per meatball at one lavish dinner and spreading an average of $25 worth of snacks around to each participant at a movie-themed party.

There was plenty, too, for those needing to satisfy sweet tooth.

More than $13,000 was spent on cookies and brownies for 1,542 people who attended a four-day "Weed and Seed" conference in August 2005, according to the audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. And a "networking" session replete with butterfly shrimp, coconut lobster skewers and Swedish meatballs at a Community Oriented Policing Services conference in July 2006 cost more than $60,000.

The report, which looked at the 10 priciest Justice Department conferences between October 2004 and September 2006, was ordered by the Senate Appropriations Committee. It also found that three-quarters of the employees who attended the conferences demanded daily reimbursement for the cost of meals while traveling - effectively double-dipping into government funds.

Auditors "found that using appropriated funds to pay for expensive meals and snacks at certain DOJ conferences, while allowable, appear to have been extravagant," the report concluded.

Responding, the Justice Department's management and administration office promised to prevent future extravagances of the sort that that Fine's auditors turned up.