WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) - A 9 Wants to Know inquiry into suspicions that the General Services Administration booked luxury suites and a party cruise has not found evidence to support the questions raised in Congress.
Opryland's 300 foot, four decked General Jackson Showboat entered the national G-S-A debate Wednesday, when U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Ca.) suggested the agency had booked the cruise for a Nashville convention going on at the same time as the hearing.
"That may be some other third party," GSA Cynthia Metzler, GSA Chief Administrative Services Officer testified under questioning.
"So, there is no expense to the federal government for the General Jackson Lee Steamboat that is having a party tonight," Denham pressed.
"That is correct to the best of my knowledge," Metzler responded.
Denham and other committee members questioned Metzler about this week's GSA Nashville conference, 76 other conferences over the past 18 months, and $30 million in GSA bonuses exposed by 9 Wants to Know.
At the same time Denham questioned Metzler, 9 Wants to Know asked sister station WTVF in Nashville to send crews to the boat.
WTVF Investigative Reporter Ben Hall questioned conventioneers boarding the General Jackson at the time of the suspected GSA departure.
"Are you with the federal government at all," WTVF video shows Hall asking. "Have you ever heard of GSA? Are you with the federal government?"
The conventioneers laughed, said no, and identified themselves as employees of Brother International, a sewing machine manufacturer holding a conference in Nashville.
During the hearing, Denham, who chairs the House subcommittee with GSA oversight, also questioned the official about tips that GSA workers were staying in luxury suites at the Gaylord Opryland Resort as well.
"Is there a GSA employee in the presidential suite," Denham questioned Metzler.
"I do not know that," the GSA official said.
Hall and the WTVF crew knocked on a presidential suite door but received no answer.
They did find signs identifying the GSA's SmartPay conference, designed to teach credit card protocols.
GSA officials say 44 people attended the conference.
Back at the General Lee, the crew found the man who said his company, Brother International, not GSA, booked the entire cruise.
"I signed the contract," the man told Investigative Reporter Hall. "I have it here in my hand."
"I would just reiterate the same outrage I have in the past," Denham said.
Friday, Denham said he hadn't found new evidence supporting his suspicions, but he still has serious concerns about the Nashville conference.
"We want to see, what are your travel expenses, what is the cost of the conference, what are they awards that are being given out at the conference, " Denham said when told of our findings. "We continue to investigate not only this conference by the same one last year where they spent a million dollars."
GSA issued a statement calling the claims "false."
"The new GSA leadership has placed strict controls on travel and spending," GSA spokesman Dan Cruz said. "Misuse of taxpayer dollars is not tolerated."
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