WASHINGTON -- The government did not pay $16 apiece for breakfast muffins at a Justice Department conference, no matter what the department's inspector general thinks.
So said Hilton Worldwide, which hosted the 2009 legal training conference in Washington. Even the IG's own report issued this week acknowledged that the government got more than muffins for its money.
Hilton Worldwide, which manages and franchises hotels including the Capital Hilton where the conference took place, said the price included not only breakfast baked goods but also fresh fruit, coffee, tea, soft drinks, tax and tips.
It said the report misinterpreted its invoices, which often use shorthand and don't reflect the full menu and service provided.
The IG's audit of excessive spending at 10 Justice Department conferences was one of those stories that make the public sit up and take notice.
Once again, the profligate government was overspending. But it wasn't billions. Or even millions.
It was muffins, at 16 bucks apiece, according to the IG's office.
The report referenced the $16 muffins half a dozen times, and said their cost was one of many food items that "appeared extravagant and potentially wasteful."
Not so, Hilton Worldwide said in a statement Thursday.
"In Washington, the contracted breakfast included fresh fruit, coffee, juice, muffins, tax and gratuity, for an inclusive price of $16 per person," the statement said.
"Dining receipts are often abbreviated and do not reflect the full pre-contracted menu and service provided, as is the case with recent media reports of breakfast items approved for some government meetings," the statement added.
Thursday night, IG spokesman Jay Lerner said that "we stand by our report."
The IG's report allocates $4,200 for the muffins, but also noted 15 gallons of complimentary coffee, 30 gallons of complimentary ice tea and 200 pieces of free fruit included in the overall price of $39,360.
The IG said the total cost per person at the reception was $14.74 -- 2 cents over the limit allowed by the Justice Department.