Second VA official resigns over conference spending

Tuesday - 1/8/2013, 5:19pm EST

Another senior official at the Veterans Affairs Department is out because of the conference spending scandal.

Alice Muellerweiss, the dean of VA's Learning University, resigned today.

"VA has taken administrative action against two career senior executives named in the OIG report," a VA spokeswoman said in a statement. "One employee has subsequently resigned. The other employee has been reassigned to other duties."

Along with Muellerweiss, the conference scandal also claimed John Sepulveda, the agency's former chief human capital officer. Sepulveda resigned at the end of September, one day before the final IG report was released.

The spokeswoman confirmed Tonya Deanes also accepted a reassignment. She was the deputy assistant secretary for Human Resources Management, where she worked under Sepulveda. The spokeswoman didn't say what she would be doing now for VA.

The spokeswoman also said, "As recommended in the OIG report, VA has taken action to implement policies that strengthen oversight of training conferences, improve accountability and safeguard taxpayer dollars."

Alice Muellerweiss

The Washington Examiner first reported Muellerweiss' decision to leave.

VA's IG found although the conferences were held for legitimate purposes, agency leadership "failed to provide proper oversight in the planning and execution" of the two conferences. Specifically, Sepulveda "abdicated his responsibilities" by failing to provide guidance to agency senior executives and taking a "hands-off approach."

The IG found $762,000 in questionable spending out of about $6.1 million spent on two conferences in 2011.

VA Deputy Secretary Scott Gould pledged in November at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to both let due process run its course with as many as 11 other employees and to make sure changes to the agency's culture and oversight processes take effect.

"There is an evident leadership crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs that is distracting from its core mission of providing timely assistance to our nation's heroes," Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement. "When outrageous spending abuses at General Services Administration conferences were first brought to light, it seemed unlikely that GSA was the only government agency abusing taxpayer dollars. We now know that the Veterans Affairs Department also failed to exercise proper stewardship over the American people's money. While the head of the GSA resigned so that her agency could begin rebuilding lost trust, the parade of VA officials slowly stepping down over several months without accepting responsibility is a troubling sign that the VA is not yet positioned to move beyond this abuse."

Muellerweiss has led the VA Learning University since January 2010 and has worked at VA since 2008. She also served as chief of the Civilian Leader Development Division in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Army's Training Directorate and as a military policewoman for more than 30 years.

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