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Report Criticizes Spending at Smithsonian

POSTED: 11:22 AM ET, 10/29/2008 by The Editors

By James V. Grimaldi and Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writers

W. Richard West Jr., the founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, submitted $17,621 in expenses without providing sufficient explanation or evidence to justify the spending, according to a report released Wednesday.

Among the expenses cited in the report were several travel claims, including one for airfare for $3,228 accompanied only by an itinerary for $823. The ticket cost was accurate, but no one questioned the erroneous itinerary.

The details are included in the Smithsonian inspector general's report released on the Smithsonian inspector general's Web site and delivered to members of Congress Tuesday. The report found "lavish" and "extravagant" spending by West, but most of his expenses followed Smithsonian rules.

Full document available after the jump...

The investigation by Inspector General A. Sprightley Ryan, prompted by a report last year in The Washington Post, found that West billed the Smithsonian for $9,700 in expenses he should not have submitted, which he has agreed to repay. While defending his spending, West apologized Tuesday night for any indiscretions.

West billed the Smithsonian for "extravagant meal expenses" that included his wife and family and lacked adequate business justification, the report said. He billed $17,331 for 82 meal vouchers submitted from 2003 to 2007. West agreed to reimburse the Smithsonian $680 for meals that gave "the appearance that Mr. West received private benefit from using Institution resources [for] expensive dinners with his family."

The report also found that the Indian museum hosted a dinner part that cost $17,293 to unveil a $48,500 oil portrait West, who retired last year. Museum officials tapped West's old law firm, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, to cover $15,000 of the costs of the dinner for 80 people. Among the speakers at the banquet were Smithsonian Deputy Secretary Sheila Burke, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Richard A. Sauber. The Smithsonian paid for the rest of the expenses, which included $1,595 for invitations and $2,600 for security and management.

The portrait was controversial when it first was reported by the Post last year. Previous coverage by The Post also revealed spending abuses by former Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small.

Inspector General's Report

Download Document (PDF) | More Hot Documents

By The Editors |  October 29, 2008; 11:22 AM ET Hot Documents
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