HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Two Congressional committees are now investigating wasteful spending by the General Services Administration after the federal agency spent more than $800,000 in federal taxpayer money on a conference in Las Vegas.
A GSA employee from Hawaii has the now dubious distinction of being the national winner of his department's creative contest in which he submitted a satirical video about spending taxpayer money, an award he received at the controversial event.
The GSA held a training conference at a ritzy resort in Las Vegas in October of 2010. It cost federal taxpayers $822,000, or nearly $2,750 per person for the four-day event.
The satirical music video -- put together by Honolulu GSA employee Hank Terlaje -- was shown at an awards ceremony during the Vegas conference.
In the video, he sang about all the spending he'd do if he were GSA commissioner and how he'd never be subject to an inspector general investigation.
U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) criticized the video in a statement released Friday.
"I must say it was not in good taste. I'm not sure what purpose it served," Inouye said. "It was surprising to say the least but not indicative of the experience I have had with the agency throughout my career."
"The inspector general's office is continuing its investigation into this indefensible behavior which has placed a cloud over GSA's mission and the important work they do for the federal employees in Hawaii and our nation," Inouye added.
Terlaje did not return a phone message left on his voicemail at his office in Honolulu's federal building Friday. Efforts to speak to him at his home were unsuccessful.
Hawaii U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono released a statement about the conference that said: "To see a misuse of taxpayers' dollars at any time is appalling and irresponsible, but now when our families are watching every penny is beyond belief."
"The people of Hawaii, as well as the many dedicated federal workers who work so hard every day, expect our tax dollars to be spent wisely and they deserve better than this," Hirono said.
Following a GSA inspector general's investigation of the event, GSA chief Martha Johnson resigned after she dismissed two deputies and suspended other career employees over the conference.
What makes the conference most embarrassing for the GSA is that it is the agency that's supposed to be looking for ways to cut taxpayer expenses. The GSA oversees construction of federal buildings as well as purchases of other goods and services for the federal government.