RELEASED: December 30, 2014
On Christmas Eve, the Merit System Protection Board found that the General Services Administration had no cause to fire two senior-level administrators for failing to prevent a lavish banquet for the GSA's Public Buildings Service 2010 Western Regions Conference. James Weller and Paul Prouty were fired in 2012, two of 46 officials who were either dismissed or reprimanded after an investigation into the conference revealed an $823,000 budget for the Las Vegas event.
"Mr. Weller is thrilled with the decision and looks forward to resuming his federal career," Alan Lescht, Mr. Weller's attorney, wrote in an email to Federal News Radio.
The GSA had appealed an administrative decision that Mr. Prouty and Mr. Weller were not responsible for knowing all of the activities planned at the conference. Neither Mr. Weller nor Mr. Prouty were part of the Region 9 staff, which was responsible for planning the event. The GSA argued that as Region 7 and Region 8 Commissioners, the two were responsible for investigating the planning activities of the Region 9 Commissioner.
Two administrative judges, after lengthy hearings, disagreed, finding that the agency did not establish any factual basis for the dismissals. Specifically, the judges found that Mr. Weller and Mr. Prouty did not have any direct knowledge of the misconduct, nor did they agree to the lavish spending. The GSA appealed the ruling to the MSPB.
The MSPB upheld the previous decisions, writing that the record "simply did not prove that these particular appellants knew or had reason to know of these ill-advised planning and purchasing decisions until after the conference had concluded." While several employees of both attended the conference, and in some cases even participated in planning activities, it was not clear from the record that either had direct knowledge of the event.
"High-level employees can't be presumed to know everything lower-level employees do," Lescht told The Washington Post.
The GSA must reinstate Mr. Weller and Mr. Prouty to their positions. The agency must also reimburse the two for back pay, interest and benefits.
About Alan Lescht & Associates, P.C.
Alan Lescht & Associates, P.C., is an employment law firm based in Washington, D.C. with experience protecting the rights of employees in the federal government. To contact Alan Lescht & Associates, call (202) 536-3315 or visit www.dcemploymentattorney.com.