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Social Security Administration Defends Lavish Arizona Biltmore Blunder

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How about just saying "oops?"

The Social Security Administration today defended its decision to hold a "training conference" at the lavish Arizona Biltmore last week that cost taxpayers roughly $750,000.

Mark Lassiter, spokesman for the SSA, tells Federal Times.com that the three-day retreat was just your average training session to teach management skills to about 700 employees of the federal program that is on the verge of economic collapse.

"This was a legitimate training conference," Lassiter says. "It's what you might expect at any other conference, government or otherwise."

Here's a free lesson in management Mr. Lassiter: When you are crumbling financially, hold training sessions at the Holiday Inn, or let Super 8 leave the light on for you; don't book one of the most ornate resorts in Arizona to discuss managing what's left of taxpayer dollars.


Members of Congress have begun to weigh in on the insensitive choice of venue for the "training" bash.

In a letter to SSA Chairman Michael Astrue, members of the House Ways and Means Committee wrote that while the rest of the country has put similar vacation plans on hold because of the financial doom and gloom on Wall Street, Main Street, and just about every other street, the SSA should be a bit more frugal with its "training" fiestas.   

"At a time when millions of Americans are out of work and having to do more with less, and when the SSA has received significant new funding to address near record backlogs after longstanding funding requests made before our subcommittees, it is essential that great care be taken to use administrative funding wisely, in a way that brings the most value to the American people SSA serves," the members wrote on July 10.




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