Friday, July 17, 2009


When the U.S. Social Security Administration is basically facing bankruptcy – trustees said in May the program will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes in 2016, and the program’s trust fund will be depleted by 2037 – it’s awfully hard to imagine spending $700,000 on a conference at an Arizona resort, complete with entertainment, dancers, motivational speakers and food. ABC 15 television in Phoenix even discovered that one of the conference sessions was titled “Emotional Intelligence.” What was Fumble-worthy was the denial of any wrongdoing from SSA spokesperson Leslie Walker, who told the station: “This was a training conference. The location was selected through the government’s competitive bidding process. The facility that was selected was the lowest bidder, and we paid well-below the prescribed government rate.” There was no acknowledgement of how taxpayers concerned about their future Social Security payments could view this, or that perception might be that this was wasteful. It’s always better in a situation like this to recognize the elephant in the room rather than just putting up a wall of denial, and offer to look into how the decision was made and whether similar decisions will be made in future. Walls of denial are found too delicious for enterprising media to knock down. When they do, your story and your embarrassment as an organization live on and become more entrenched.

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