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Jeff Neely, the embattled General Services Administration official at the center of a scandal over a lavish Las Vegas conference, was reprimanded in 2011 for appearing in a campaign ad for Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), documents obtained by Roll Call show.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel said Neely’s participation in the ad for Inouye’s 2010 re-election campaign violated the Hatch Act, but it did not discipline him beyond a warning.
The footage of Neely used in the ad was from a June 2010 groundbreaking ceremony heralding the $212 million renovation of the Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Federal Building and Courthouse in Honolulu.
The project was part of the 2009 economic stimulus law and was designed to transition federally owned buildings into “high-performance green buildings,” according to a GSA prospectus.
“The man who provided the leadership, and the guidance, and the touch was Jeff Neely,” Inouye said at the ceremony, according to a video of the event.
“If it weren’t for him, if it weren’t for his leadership, we would not be here this morning to inaugurate the beginning of this process. On behalf of all of you and behalf of the people of Hawaii, Mr. Neely, we thank you very much,” Inouye said.
“Prior to the recent press reports, Senator Inouye and his staff were unaware of the disappointing allegations that Jeff Neely and his staff wasted and misused taxpayer funds. Neither Senator Inouye nor his staff knew Mr. Neely in anything other than a professional capacity. Senator Inouye and his staff worked with the GSA Region 9 office only on issues relevant to GSA’s mission,” said Peter Boylan, Inouye’s deputy chief of staff.
The revelations about Neely’s Hatch Act violation come as officials ramp up legislative efforts to address the GSA scandal.
On Tuesday, the Senate approved by voice vote an amendment that would reform spending and oversight for federal agency travel and conferences.
And on Wednesday, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), the chairman of a House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the GSA, introduced legislation requiring an annual audit of the agency, which he said has resisted his efforts to learn about its finances.
Denham and other top Republicans have called for Neely, who was placed on administrative leave March 20, to be fired. The GSA has not responded to the calls, but its employees are entitled to a disciplinary process.
A longtime GSA employee, Neely has not spoken in public about his conduct other than to decline to answer questions at an April 16 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.