Mind reader and clown helped kill GSA leader Martha Johnson’s job

image”Among the other expenses were $3,200 for a mind reader, $6,300 on a commemorative coin set displayed in velvet boxes and $75,000 on a training exercise to build a bicycle.” – Washington Post report on $823K splurged on a 300-employee federal conference in Las Vegas.

Ouch. The gems in the sentence above don’t even include the clown and the comedian.

Martha Johnson had tried to reform the General Services Administration—the setting for the massive corruption described in The Solomon Scandals (Twilight Times, 2009). I suspect she made many useful changes. But now Johnson has resigned, apparently to atone for mismanagement, as opposed to direct personal corruption.

The Teapot Dome bribery scandal happened in the same building at 18th and F St., N.W., Washington, D.C., when it housed the Interior Department. More than a few GSA officials, including Lurita Doan, an administrator hired by George Bush, have left amid scandals over the years. The damn place must be jinxed. Perhaps, however, GSA could have held the conference away from Las Vegas and hired a cheaper mind reader to puzzle out the mood of the White House and taxpayers.

As weird as the Johnson episode is, fiction still can be stranger than real life. Scandals just might be the only D.C. corruption novel ending with a speech-capable Afghan Hound giving a Harry Truman send-up at the Cosmos Club. And, yes, my GSA administrator also flees ahead of the ax.

Update, April 3: Here are a few words from a GSA defender. As quoted by Washington Technology, ex-GSA official Bob Woods says of Johnson: “When you come into an organization as complex and big as GSA, there are a lot of things in motion when you get there. There are a lot of moving parts. I don’t think it’s reasonable to think she came in in April or May” of 2010 “and was down to managing things on the conference planning level in the Public Buildings Service.” The conference took place in October 2010. Enough time?

Meanwhile you can read the a report from GSA’s office of the inspector general. It includes a reply from Ms. Johnson saying that in August 2011 she “established the Office of Administrative Services (OAS) in order to provide greater oversight and accountability for all administrative functions within the agency.”

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David Rothman

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