GSA investigator was too aggressive at Nashville conference, memo alleges

The Cumberland River runs through Nashville. The Cumberland River runs through Nashville. Mark Humphrey/AP

A General Services Administration investigator may have been excessively aggressive in questioning an employee about an August conference in Nashville, according to Federal News Radio.

A memo obtained by FNR detailed a GSA inspector general employee’s “violent knocking” after 11 p.m. on Aug.1 on the hotel door of David Shea, the official in charge of the conference.

The memo said a hotel security guard was accompanying the IG employee, Steven Heckler, leading Shea to believe he was “representing law enforcement.”

Brian Miller, GSA’s inspector general, had authorized the on-site investigation after Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., raised concerns about the conference.

A GSA IG spokeswoman told FNR her office disputed many of the details included in the memo, which was written by James Hudson, GSA's director of congressional and industry stakeholder affairs and the agency's congressional liaison.

Whereas the memo alleged Heckler read Shea his Miranda rights, raised his voice and lingered in the room after being asked to leave, the spokeswoman said the investigator did not read the Miranda rights “because there was no need to” and “the GSA official declined to be interviewed, so the OIG special agent left.”

The memo described Heckler as aggravated because he had to drive to Nashville from Atlanta to conduct the interview, but the spokeswoman said Heckler was already in Nashville.

Ultimately, Heckler’s investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of GSA, according to FNR. Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, such as Rep. Denham, pointed to agency members potentially staying in expensive suites or embarking on a commercial cruise on the government’s dime, but the IG’s office could not substantiate these accusations.

Shea, through Hudson’s memo, said the incident left him considering a new line of work.

"Mr. Shea stated that he has worked for the federal government for 27 years, at three agencies, and has a spotless record, but now is beginning to wonder if continued federal employment is worth it, if, as appears to be the case, being a federal employee requires is [sic] that you submit to jack-booted secret police-style tactics by individuals evidently on the authority of the inspector general," Hudson wrote in the memo.

"The memorandum does not reflect the views of GSA leadership,” an anonymous agency official told FNR. “GSA will review the issues discussed in the memo and work with the OIG."

Multiple former inspectors general told FNR, on the condition of anonymity, that Heckler was acting within his legal capacity, even if the memo is accurate.

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