WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) - A 9 News Now investigation has identified 67 bonuses of about $10,000 apiece to senior General Services Administration officials, including five with links to the agency's Las Vegas scandal.
"This is offensive to the taxpayer
and cannot be tolerated," said House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John L. Mica about the bonuses linked to officials put on administrative leave after the Las Vegas scandal.
The inquiry also uncovered GSA bonuses that were never reported in a federal payroll database which, despite repeated inquiries, the White House, Office of Personnel Management, nor the GSA will explain.
According to payroll documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, bonuses of about $10,000 went to five senior officials who were placed on administrative leave after the agency's lavish $823,000 Vegas conference with $2,400 square foot luxury hotel rooms, tuxedos and a clown.
We reviewed bonus information reported for every GSA regional commissioner for fiscal year 2011 in a database published by the DataUniverse.com at Gannett sister publication Asbury Park Press, finding no bonuses comparable to previous years GSA averages.
According to a 2011 FOIA response from GSA's director of Executive Resources, Karla Hester, in 2010, the average bonus for Senior GSA officials was $11,888.
According to the same response, in FY 2011, GSA Awarded senior official Anthony Costa $10,000, Commissioner Paul Prouty $15,500, and Regional Commissioner Mary Ruwwe $9,800.
None of those bonuses appear in the DataUniverse.com database built with information provided by the Office of Personnel Management.
The fiscal year 2011 payroll database reports Costa's $10,000 bonus as $1900, Prouty's $15,500 bonus as $1,900, and Ruwwe's $9,800 bonus as $900.
Click here to check the federal payroll database yourself.
The original bonus information was obtained by our sister publication, the Asbury Park Press through a Freedom of Information Act request with the Office of Personnel Management.
When we asked OPM why these new numbers don't match those numbers, they referred us to the White House.
The White House referred us back to our sister publication the Asbury Park Press.
"As the Asbury Park Press disclosed, the data they collected may be incomplete and has not been certified as complete and accurate," said White House Office of Management and Budget Spokeswoman Moira Mack.
The paper's investigative editor, Paul D'Ambrosio said OPM releases the information GSA provides it.
"All I can say is this is what OPM gave me. It's supposed to be for the full fiscal year," D'Ambrosio said. "I dont know why GSA totals would be off."
"I think it's a classic case of passing the buck," said James Sherk, an analyst at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation.
Sherk is more troubled by the bonus money we uncovered for fiscal year 2012.
Our FOIA obtained a GSA list of 67 high ranking officials splitting more than a half-million dollars in bonus money in December 2011 or January 2012.
Almost all between about $8,000 and $10,000 a piece.
"What's very disturbing is that these performance bonuses, which were supposed to be performance bonuses apparently weren't," Sherk said. "Very large bonuses were going to some, as we know, terrible performers."
He's talking about GSA Regional Commissioner Jeffrey Neely, the GSA official infamous for organizing the Las Vegas conference, his bathtub photos, luxury hotel rooms and whirlwind trips at taxpayer expense.
In January 2012, after the inspector general alerted GSA to the accusations against Neely, the agency awarded him a bonus of more than $9,400.
"First of all, these aren't bonuses, they're performance awards," said Bill Bransford who is lead attorney for Senior Executives Association, a group that represents high ranking government workers. "My knee jerk reaction is that these numbers are quite low for SES performance awards."
Bransford says policy allows awards as high as 20% of annual salary for performance, but the FY 2012 GSA awards we obtained through the Freedom of Information Act were all 6.5% of salary or lower.
He says Neely's troubles are the exception among senior government officials and the award payouts are designed as part of worker compensation packages to make the positions competive.
"I think some of them should be higher," Bransford said.
Many GSA senior officials received no FY 2012 bonus payment at all.
But the heritage foundation's Sherk argues Neely's bonus, and bonuses awarded to other GSA officials linked to Las Vegas, were almost identical with the other 62 senior officials, indicating no significant difference in award money for work performance.
Documents indicate in January of 2012, GSA senior official David Foley received more than $9,500.
He's the high ranking GSA official who joked on stage at the Las Vegas conference about making light about bonuses, executive pay, and even a possible oversight committee investigation.
Among the bonus recipients, we identified three other Vegas conference leaders besides Foley and Neely, all now on administrative leave, with similar payouts.
A GSA source says Foley has returned to his job after disciplinary action and the other high ranking officials are receiving pay while on administrative leave.
A GSA spokeswoman says the new acting administrator, Dan Tangerlini, was already aware of the bonus information and it is part of his top to bottom review of the agency.
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