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The Veterans Affairs Department has turned over to Congress 54 DVDs showing every moment, including some embarrassing ones, of the controversial 2011 human resources conferences held in Orlando, Fla., that cost taxpayers a combined $5 million.
The single worst moment is a video mix that shows VA employees singing karaoke to the Michael Jackson song “Beat It,” with excerpts from some of the week’s speakers. For example, one speaker says, “I’ll show you impact” as two women do the bump.
Documents do not justify the enormous cost of the conference nor answer questions about whether VA officials following the law and regulations in spending about $2,500 a person for 1,900 attendees at an event that that featured a personal appearance by actor Jim Deken, who played the role of Gen. George Patton, in motivational speeches.
The Patton videos — three in all — cost the VA about $52,000.
In his personal appearances, Deken also provided one uncomfortable moment when he asks one of the senior VA people attending the conference, Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey, “Do you want to borrow my riding crop?” Hickey’s reaction is not shown.
Several other high-ranking VA officials attended the conferences. The highest ranking official was Scott Gould, VA’s deputy secretary, who made one-day appearances at the July and August events, according to information provided to Congress. Meetings were videotaped as part of the $5 million conference package, and for the most part show from two camera angles in addition to a final production tape.