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9News Now Investigation Into Sick and Dead GSA Workers Cited In Congressional Hearing

10:30 AM, Apr 18, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- A 9 Wants to Know Investigation became the focus of a Congressional hearing Tuesday as new revelations unfolded in the GSA probe.

Congressman Timothy Walz (D-MN) questioned the GSA's Inspector General repeatedly, not only about the toxins 9 News Now uncovered in a GSA regional headquarters building but also a $234,000 PR contract to handle what the "media crisis."

"It was again last night on WUSA about the health risks that are being reported by GSA members," US Rep. Timothy Walz (D-MN) said about the illnesses and deaths exposed by 9 News Now. "We have crossed between healthily skeptical to cancerous cynicism."

During the hearing, Members of Congress also discussed other big money costs in newly reported travel and missing electronics.

"GSA's wasteful spending of millions on junkets, conferences, shady employee award programs, and bogus award ceremonies is just the tip of the iceberg of the agency's abuse of the taxpayers," said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) in a statement issued after the hearing. "This agency also appallingly wastes billions of the taxpayers' hard-earned money through the habitual mismanagement of unused and underutilized federal property."

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA) said Regional Commissioner Jeffrey Neeley, the official who organized the now infamous $823,000 Las Vegas convention, took even more trips.

Although the Inspector General warned GSA officials about Neeley's travels in August 2011, documents provided by the committee show from October 2011 to March 2012 he booked more flights traveling 39 days to locations including Hawaii, Guam, Atlanta, Napa and Saipan.

"My anger and frustration have finally gotten to a boiling point," Denham said.

Neeley may be best known for an Internet picture of him sitting in a hot tub or the GSA video showing him advising GSA conventioneers to ignore traditional Vegas wisdom.

"To dispense with the notion that what happens with Vegas stays in Vegas and really leave with what's done in Vegas needs to be shared with everybody," Neeley said in the video.

In the hearing the Inspector General also discussed $20,000 in missing electronics, one of which he said turned up at Neeley's home..

"We found there were about 115 iPod's missing," said IG Brian Miller.   "The subpoena from Apple told us that his daughter had been downloading iTunes and that sort of thing."

Congressman Walz turned the hearing's focus to the W*USA9 investigation into the GSA's hiring of a $234,000 PR firm to respond to a death list put together by sick workers who fear toxins made them ill.

"Are some of you aware of what's being reported there," said Minnesota Democrat Timothy Walz citing our 9 News Investigation during the hearing.

The inspector general testified he'd reviewed the sick and dead GSA worker claims uncovered by the 9 Wants to Know investigation and determined, at the agency's Kansas City regional headquarters, the GSA mismanaged environmental risks

"The risks or the risks of bad PR? Because it seems to me they spent more money on the risks of bad PR than the environmental risks," Walz said.

 "Well, that's a fair statement," Wells responded.

The 9 Wants to Know investigation identified a history at the General Services Administration of paying high dollar bonuses to senior leaders despite their links to wrongdoing identified by Inspector General investigations.

"It's heartbreaking," says Barbara Rice, a former worker from the GSA Regional Headquarters Building in Kansas City, Mo. "Everyone has turned pretty much a deaf ear."

The investigation, which also identified a $26 million dollar annual GSA bonus pool, came shortly after former Administrator Martha Johnson resigned in the wake of the lavish Las Vegas convention with 2,400 square foot hotel suites.

In the Kansas City GSA office, year after year, GSA Regional Commissioner Mary Ruwwe received bonuses, despite being at the center of Inspector General investigations.

Rice created the "GSA Death List" to warn officials of worker fears they were being killed by toxins in that building.

Click here to see the entire 9 Wants to Know investigation: http://www.wusa9.com/news/article/201819/158/GSA-Death-List-Bonuses-And-26-Million-Bonus-Pool

Congressman Walz grilled the Inspector General over our reports finding that in response to GSA worker fears cancers and toxins the GSA hired the outside PR agency.

"Is that legal to do that?" Walz asked the IG.

"In our opinion, they violated just about all the procurement rules in hiring this PR firm," Miller responded.

Walz said the agency response to worker fears showed a pattern of cultural disinterest in GSA employees.

Neither the GSA nor Martha Johnson have commented about the GSA Death List exposed in our investigation or the $26 million bonus pool.

This all started with a tip. If you've got a tip on government waste or corruption contact rptacek@wusa9.com, or follow @russptacek on Twitter

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