All Manner of Misdeeds Uncovered by Departing Inspector General

Brian Miller leaves the General Services Administration after nine years of rooting out corruption.

Brian D. Miller retired as inspector general at the General Services Administration in April 2014.
National Journal
Christopher Snow Hopkins
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Christopher Snow Hopkins
April 21, 2014, 8 a.m.

Over the course of nine years as in­spect­or gen­er­al at the Gen­er­al Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Bri­an D. Miller rooted out prof­ligacy, cor­rup­tion, and plain stu­pid­ity across the agency that provides prop­erty-man­age­ment, ac­quis­i­tion, and tech­no­logy ser­vices for the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

The most no­tori­ous ex­ample of of­fi­cials be­hav­ing badly was a con­fer­ence at Las Ve­gas’s M Re­sort Spa Casino that cost tax­pay­ers $822,751 and led to the resig­na­tion of GSA Ad­min­is­trat­or Martha N. John­son. The 2010 West­ern Re­gions Con­fer­ence was so “over the top,” in the words of one of the or­gan­izers, that re­port­ers made a sport of cata­loguing un­ne­ces­sary ex­pendit­ures, from a mind read­er to com­mem­or­ative coins to a $31,208 re­cep­tion.

The five-day blo­wout was re­con­struc­ted in a 16-page re­port com­piled by Miller in the wake of the scan­dal. “We worked hard on mak­ing it fair, read­able, and short,” Miller said of the doc­u­ment, which con­cluded that the plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion of the con­fer­ence was “in­com­pat­ible with [the agency’s] ob­lig­a­tion to be a re­spons­ible stew­ard of the pub­lic’s money.”

Earli­er this month, Miller an­nounced that he was step­ping down as GSA in­spect­or gen­er­al to be­come a man­aging dir­ect­or at Nav­ig­ant, an ex­pert-ser­vices firm. He leaves GSA in “top con­di­tion,” Miller said, hav­ing ad­ded forensic-audit­ing and crim­in­al-in­tel­li­gence units to the Of­fice of In­spect­or Gen­er­al.

Miller is philo­soph­ic­al about the bad apples in every large or­gan­iz­a­tion. “If people in­ten­tion­ally try to cir­cum­vent the sys­tem, they’re go­ing to find a way,” he said. “GSA has 12,000 em­ploy­ees, and in any town of 12,000, you’re go­ing to find a jail.”¦ People in­ten­tion­ally do bad things.”

Raised near Phil­adelphia, Miller holds a bach­el­or’s de­gree from Temple Uni­versity and a law de­gree from the Uni­versity of Texas. Be­fore be­ing con­firmed by the Sen­ate as GSA in­spect­or gen­er­al in Ju­ly 2005, he served for 15 years in the Justice De­part­ment, first in the Of­fice of Leg­al Policy and later as an as­sist­ant U.S. at­tor­ney in the East­ern Dis­trict of Vir­gin­ia, where he pro­sec­uted ter­ror­ists, fraud­sters, king­pins, and as­sor­ted miscre­ants.

When then-At­tor­ney Gen­er­al John Ash­croft was sued in the East­ern Dis­trict of New York for events stem­ming from 9/11, Miller was part of a team hand­picked by Ash­croft to rep­res­ent him per­son­ally.

Dur­ing Miller’s ten­ure at GSA, the agency col­lec­ted more than $1 bil­lion in civil set­tle­ments from com­pan­ies ac­cused of vi­ol­at­ing the False Claims Act. Apart from the Las Ve­gas con­fer­ence scan­dal, Miller pur­sued way­ward act­ors at every level, from a deputy re­gion­al com­mis­sion­er who used a gov­ern­ment-is­sued cred­it card to stay at lux­ury ho­tels, to a former chief of staff who was sen­tenced to a year in pris­on in con­nec­tion with the Jack Ab­ramoff scan­dal.

Miller also partnered with GSA’s Pub­lic Build­ings Ser­vice to re­cov­er hun­dreds of lost or stolen works of art from the New Deal era. Cop­ies of sev­er­al of the re­covered works are on dis­play in the in­spect­or gen­er­al’s con­fer­ence room.

In a let­ter to Pres­id­ent Obama no­ti­fy­ing him of his de­cision to step down, Miller quoted a col­league who re­marked that serving as in­spect­or gen­er­al was like “strad­dling a barbed wire fence.”

“It’s a lonely life,” Miller said. “You make even few­er friends as an in­spect­or gen­er­al than as a fed­er­al pro­sec­utor. Nobody likes to be audited; nobody likes to be in­vest­ig­ated.

“We re­view the facts and call it like we see it. Some­times that will be well-re­ceived by a por­tion of Con­gress, and some­times it won’t.”¦ There are a lot of dif­fer­ent polit­ic­al agen­das go­ing on.”

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