Former GSA administrator skipped ‘Vegas Vacation’ to meet with Solyndra

Alex Myers Contributor
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Martha Johnson, a top-ranking General Services Administration official who resigned after taxpayers discovered they had paid for an $800,000 GSA conference in Las Vegas, wasn’t even at the conference in question. Instead, she was meeting with disgraced green energy company Solyndra.

Solyndra, a California-based solar panel manufacturer, made news for taking $535 million in government loan guarantees in 2011, and then declaring bankruptcy shortly after.

According to ABC News, GSA spokesman Adam Elkington said that Johnson did not attend any meetings with Solyndra,but he could not recall her whereabouts during the conference in Las Vegas.

Johnson’s decision to skip the conference resulted in extra costs for audio and video equipment necessary to allow four assistant administrators to participate via video-teleconference. Those costs came to $3,500 dollars.

At the time Johnson visited Solyndra, the Department of Energy was working with the company to help GSA purchase Solyndra solar panels for rooftops. Critics allege that the deal was intended to help get the bankrupt company out of its rut.

If spending $822,000 on mind readers, clowns, penthouse suites and catering didn’t cause enough furor, it was later discovered that another GSA employee spent an extra day in Vegas on taxpayer money.

That unnamed official was said to have spent the government rate of $93 on a $1,000 hotel room, but charged taxpayers the full amount and pocketed the rest.

Reps. Jeff Dunham and John Mica told Fox Business that 50 GSA officials were also given bonuses amounting to between $500 and $1,000 each for putting together what’s being called the “Vegas vacation.”

A statement from the acting administrator of the GSA read, “What took place was completely unacceptable, there were violations of travel rules, acquisition rules and good conduct.”

Besides Johnson, seven other officials have resigned, been fired or suspended, and congressional hearings are set to take place when Congress returns to session next week.

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Alex Myers