GSA chief resigns; top aides fired

April 2, 2012 at 5:30 PM

WASHINGTON, April 2 (UPI) -- Martha Johnson, head of the General Services Administration, resigned and two of her deputies were fired, White House officials in Washington said Monday.

Johnson, her top adviser, Stephen Leeds, and Public Buildings Service head Robert A. Peck left the GSA amid reports of excessive spending for a training conference, The Washington Post reported. Four GSA employees who organized the four-day conference were placed on administrative leave pending further action.

The departures and suspensions come as the agency's inspector general was preparing to release a report critical about the conference at a luxury hotel near Las Vegas in October 2010.

Organizers spent $835,000 on the event attended by 300 employees. Expenses included $3,200 for a mind reader and $6,300 for a commemorative set of coins displayed in velvet boxes, the Post said.

"When the White House was informed of the inspector general's findings we acted quickly to determine who was responsible for such a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars," White House Chief of State Jack Lew said in a statement to the Post.

President Obama "was outraged by the excessive spending, questionable dealings with contractors and disregard for taxpayer dollars ... and called for all those responsible to be held fully accountable," Lew said.

Officials said Johnson will be replaced by Dan Tangherlini, an assistant secretary in the Treasury Department and former city administrator for the District of Columbia.

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