Her role as the “first lady of Region 9” — as an investigator called her — shows a management culture in GSA’s Pacific Rim region that not only allowed the $823,000 Las Vegas gathering for 300 people and overspending on other conferences but also openly condoned perks for managers and their family members.
Deborah Neely, reached Tuesday at the couple’s home in Mill Valley, Calif., said she is hiring an attorney and could not comment until she has legal representation. Her actions are among the alleged misconduct that Inspector General Brian Miller has asked the Justice Department to investigate, government sources said. Jeffrey Neely declined through his attorney to comment.
On Monday, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Neely, 57, did not appear at another House hearing Tuesday.
Deborah Neely, 49, does not work for the government, but she used the credentials of a manager on her husband’s staff so she could join him at a trade show, according to transcripts reviewed by The Washington Post. Taxpayers covered the $711 registration fee.
And as recently as February, when a draft of Miller’s highly critical report on the Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas was awaiting a response from GSA officials, the Neelys took a 17-day government-related trip to Hawaii, Guam and the Mariana Islands. The couple planned to celebrate her birthday on the trip.
“It’s yo birfday. . . . We gonna pawty like iz yo birfday!” Deborah Neely said in an e-mail to her husband, according to documents.
“Mr. Neely and his wife believe they were some sort of agency royalty who used taxpayer funds to bankroll their lavish lifestyle,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the oversight panel, said Monday.
The scandal widened Tuesday as GSA officials said they have placed five additional career employees on administrative leave, and lawmakers pressed current and former officials to explain why they did not move against Jeffrey Neely and other managers sooner.
Miller described a culture of excess in the government’s real estate and purchasing agency.
“Every time we turned over a stone, we found 50 more with all kinds of things crawling out,” Miller told members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. In Las Vegas, the GSA paid for a mind reader, bicycles for a team-building exercise, lavish food spreads and several private parties.