Fired GSA Exec Exonerated, Restored With Back Pay

The Public Buildings Service Western Regions Conference in October 2010 was held at the M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas. The Public Buildings Service Western Regions Conference in October 2010 was held at the M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas. Flickr user Exothermic

James Weller, the Region 7 administrator of the General Services Administration’s Public Buildings Service who was forced out after the scandal over lavish spending on a 2010 Las Vegas, Nev. training conference, has been exonerated.

On March 6, Merit Systems Protection Board Administrative Law Judge Ronald Weiss reversed GSA’s 2012 decision to terminate Weller and restored him to his job with 19 months’ back pay, according to his attorney.

“The evidence at trial showed that Mr. Weller was not responsible for planning the Western Regions Conference” at which the overspending took place in October 2010, said attorney Alan Lescht in a statement. “Those decisions were made by Region  9. …. Mr. Weller has an exceptional record of public service, and with this decision he has regained  his reputation and cleared  his name.”

Following an April 2012 GSA inspector general report about an $820,000 four-day conference for 300 employees that featured a mind-reader, special receptions and expensive commemorative coins, several executives were forced out, including GSA Administrator Martha Johnson, Public Buildings Service Commissioner Robert Peck and Region 9 Administrator Jeff Neely.

Weller ran Region 7 from Fort Worth, Texas, and Neely ran Region 9 from San Francisco, Calif.

In Weller’s case, the judge concluded that, “outside of his personal appearance at the final, ‘dry run’ meeting, the appellant possessed no knowledge regarding the WRC planning meetings until well after the fact… [that] Region 9, as host for the WRC, was responsible for the logistics of the conference planning…it was not possible for the appellant to have controlled the excess costs associated with these events,” he wrote. “The fact remains that the appellant did not participate in the relevant purchasing decisions and had no prior notice of the resulting largess.”

The GSA in April 2013 also lost a round in MSPB court when an administrative judge reversed the agency’s decision to remove Paul Prouty as commissioner of Public Buildings Service Region 8. That case is pending. Prouty was based in Denver, Colo.

GSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

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