Video Shows Two Highly-paid GSA Officials Leading Employees on “Rocky”-themed “Jogs” through GSA Corridors; Parodies of Godfather, Jeopardy, Mission Impossible, and Sherlock Holmes
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained more than a half-dozen, newly uncovered videos from U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) which show senior GSA officials and staff participating in costumed playacting and parodies. These videos are evidence of GSA’s extravagance, which, along with the scandalous 2010 Las Vegas regional conference, were revealed in a scathing April 2012 inspector general (IG) report. These videos had been available on GSA’s website prior to the release of the IG Report but were removed shortly thereafter.
The videos were obtained by Judicial Watch pursuant to a June 15, 2012, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking videos produced by GSA’s Northeast Region (known as Region 2) from 2011 through June 2012. Because the agency failed to timely respond to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on May 23, 2013 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. General Services Administration (No. 1:13-cv-00755)).
These newly uncovered videos show a wide variety of costly videotaped performances by senior GSA officials and employees, including:
- The Rocky Jog– With the Rocky movie theme blaring in the background, senior GSA officials lead employees on an extended jog through the corridors of the GSA’s New York office and the streets of Manhattan.
The jog is initiated by Ben Kochanski, Deputy Regional Commissioner, GSA Public Buildings Service, whose 2012 salary was $141,066.
Kochanski is then joined by Joanna Rosato, Regional Commissioner of GSA Public Buildings Service, whose 2012 salary was $164,500. Many additional GSA employees then join these two senior officials.
- Directors Meeting– GSA employee tries conducting a seminar for a room full of screeching GSA employees/monkeys who continue drinking and partying until he joins them in a dance routine.
- Rap Music Video – GSA official transforms into a rap singer to explain to young employees the need for additional revenue.
- Jeopardy – GSA officials and employees participate in an elaborate Jeopardy game show parody, complete with theme music, light up board, and canned audience applause.
- The “Leasefather” – GSA employees parody the baker scene from “The Godfather” movie with supplicant pleading for Don Tony (stroking stuffed cat) to give him justice.
- Mission Impossible – Former GSA official Ashley Cohen portrays Jim Phelps in a “Mission Impossible” TV show parody with blaring theme, lit matches, and an exploding tape recorder.
- Sherlock Holmes – After an opening with stock footage from Universal Studios, GSA employees costumed as Holmes and Watson conduct a lengthy discussion.
Judicial Watch was alerted to the existence of these newly uncovered videos by its client Linda Shenwick, a whistleblower in GSA who objected to frivolous expenditures in the GSA’s Region 2, the office which produced the videos. GSA had a policy of encouraging and rewarding employees who produced and performed in the controversial videos. Ms. Shenwick has since been demoted and isolated by moving her from the agency’s senior executive suite to an office in the agency’s child care center. Ms. Shenwick is pursuing a whistleblower case against the GSA with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.
Ironically, the GSA touts itself as an “innovation engine” that helps the government cut costs. The nearly $1 million Las Vegas extravaganza featured not only costly videos similar to those released today, but also luxury accommodations for employees and their loved ones, fine cuisine, parties and expensive gifts. In addition, dozens of agency workers were awarded cash bonuses for arranging the event, which the Region 9 Commissioner/Acting Regional Administrator had ordered to be “over the top.” Disclosure of the Las Vegas and other abuses led to the removal of some GSA officials but the agency officials who produced these videos still have their jobs. President Obama is seeking at least $250 million dollars for the GSA in his most recent budget.
“This latest round of extravagant and embarrassing GSA videos is further evidence of a bloated federal government completely out of control,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Clearly the new administrator will have his work cut out for him if this pattern of preposterous waste is to be curtailed. Our client Linda Shenwick has done her best to alert GSA to these abuses but her efforts were ignored by GSA leadership. Federal employees, such as Ms. Shenwick, who alert senior officials to this wasteful nonsense are punished and vilified. As these newly uncovered videos demonstrate, there clearly needs to be a more thorough housecleaning at GSA.”
The scandal surrounding the General Services Administration’s (GSA) exorbitant Las Vegas conference is merely the tip of the iceberg for a bloated federal agency that apparently has quite a history of mismanagement and waste.
The question is; why didn’t Congress act sooner to set limits on the GSA’s manic spending sprees? Why did it take a public scandal with lots of mainstream media coverage for lawmakers—especially those responsible for the agency’s oversight—to finally threaten to take action?
Before attempting to answer that question, here’s a little history. The GSA is huge, with a staff of about 14,000 and an annual budget of nearly $20 billion. It’s one of the of the government’s central management agencies and handles everything from office space for the feds to communication and purchasing. Ironically, the GSA touts itself as an “innovation engine” that helps the government cut costs.
But all that rhetoric went down the drain when the media got wind of a lavish conference the GSA held for its employees in Las Vegas. It cost taxpayers nearly $1 million and featured luxury accommodations for employees and their loved ones, fine cuisine, parties and expensive gifts. Adding insult to injury, dozens of agency workers were awarded cash bonuses for arranging the outlandish Sin City event. Read all about it in a GSA Inspector General report published this month.
Evidently this has inspired Congress to finally “investigate” the GSA. In fact, next week the House committee that has oversight jurisdiction over the GSA will hold a special hearing to address the agency’s “outrageous wasteful spending.” The Florida congressman organizing the session, Republican John Mica, now reveals that the GSA has a lengthy history of wasting taxpayer dollars.
In fact, Mica says the GSA’s mismanagement of federal property has cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. “GSA’s habitual mismanagement of taxpayer-owned assets is what makes spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a conference for bureaucrats so appalling,” the congressman said in statement posted on his website.
Mica added that, for years GSA brass has stonewalled congressional requests for administrative costs, clearly indicating that lawmakers have known for some time about the corruption inside the agency. Why, then, hasn’t Congress bothered to take action before the Vegas scandal ignited so much public outrage?