WASHINGTON (AP) The former director of the National Museum of the American Indian spent more than $250,000 in Smithsonian funds on first-class transportation and luxury hotels over the past four years, according to records obtained by The Washington Post.
During that time, W. Richard West Jr. was away from Washington for 576 days on trips that included speaking engagements, fund raising and work for other nonprofit groups. West recently retired from the director's post but remains on the payroll until the end of the year.
West's travel often took him far from American Indian culture. There were more than a dozen trips to Paris, and there were also trips to New Zealand, Greece, Indonesia and Singapore.
West said all his trips were approved by supervisors and that part of his job was to be a global emissary for the museum.
Smithsonian officials have been under scrutiny following accusations of spending abuses by Lawrence Small, former secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, which includes the National Museum of the American Indian. Small resigned last March amid the criticism.
At the time of West's travel, top Smithsonian officials were allowed unlimited leave with pay. That policy has been changed in the wake of Small's resignation.