Former GSA Administrator Who Arranged Lavish Conference Sentenced for False Claim

A former U.S. General Services Administration executive who organized a notoriously lavish conference in Las Vegas in 2010 was sentenced in federal court in San Francisco Wednesday to three months in jail for making a false claim for travel expenses.

Jeffrey Neely, 59, of Gardnerville, Nev., was given the jail term by U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg, who also ordered him to serve an additional three months of home confinement and pay $8,000 in restitution.

Neely pleaded guilty before Seeborg on March 31 to one count of making a false claim for expenses not incurred on official business. In exchange, prosecutors dropped four other charges of false clams and false statements.

Neely was the acting regional administrator between 2009 and 2011 for the GSA’s Pacific Rim Region, also known as Region 9, which is based in San Francisco and includes California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and Pacific territories.

The GSA manages buildings and services for federal agencies. Before and after serving in the top post as acting regional administrator, Neely was a regional commissioner in charge of building services.

In October 2010, he organized an $823,000, four-day conference at the M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas for 300 employees of Region 9 and three other GSA regions in the western half of the United States.

The GSA’s inspector general concluded in a 2012 report that “many of the expenditures on the conference were excessive and wasteful.” The report said Neely instructed planners to make the event “over the top,” bigger and better than previous conferences.

The conference price tag included commemorative coins, a $30,000 talent-show awards dinner, $44 breakfasts, semi-private parties, souvenir yearbooks, and $130,000 in costs for eight scouting and planning trips and meetings, six of which were held at the M Resort Spa Casino.

Neely’s conviction was for a false claim for lodging costs at the casino at the time of one of the planning trips.

A scandal about the conference led to a congressional hearing, the resignation of the GSA’s national administrator and the firing of two top deputies. Neely was put on administrative leave after the inspector general’s report was issued and resigned one month later.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said in a statement, “Mr. Neely has acknowledged he violated the special trust that was placed in him as a public servant.”

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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