The General Services Administration (GSA) Western Regions Conference scandal was a political embarrassment for the agency. It led to high-level resignations and a political uproar from members of Congress decrying the profligate spending that the agency engaged in when setting up a conference in Las Vegas.
When an agency faces a scandal like this, much like the famous line from Casablanca, they often react by rounding up the usual suspects and firing them. While these types of politically motivated mass executions may satisfy the critics of federal employees, they often fail to be evidence-based and those who may have had little or nothing to do with a situation often suffer adverse job actions or, as here, wrongful termination.
Last week, for the second time, the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) ruled that the General Services Administration (GSA) had wrongfully terminated an employee in response to the Western Regions Conference scandal. Last year, the MSPB found that the case against another GSA commissioner was also "devoid of evidence," and ordered his reinstatement with back pay.
The decision of the administrative law judge had found that while the commissioner from Region 7 had no knowledge of the planning and procurement that occurred during the run-up to the Western Regions Conference, and that Region 9 controlled the planning.
The ALJ also noted that he had not participated in the relevant purchasing decisions, and in some cases, was not even aware of the employees who attended the relevant planning, not having been responsible for approving their attendance.
For employees caught up in this type of a scandal, legal representation is always necessary, as the agency, as is demonstrated by this case, sacrifices employees to the maw of public opinion, irrespective of the facts of the situation.
Source: Federalnewsradio.com, "Second former GSA official cleared of wrongdoing in conference scandal," Jason Miller, March 6, 2014