By Bill Cotterell
TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT POLITICAL EDITOR
We are sure to hear complaints that Democratic legislators are playing politics with the latest People First controversy.
What? Politicians playing politics in an election year? Quick, somebody call the Ethics Commission.
The Department of Management Services and Convergys finally fessed up last week, telling the Senate Governmental Oversight and Productivity Committee that
a lot of state employee personnel records wound up in India. DMS Secretary Tom Lewis said up to 108,000 employees may have had some of their personnel
files processed overseas.
Both DMS and the company said there is no evidence of any identity theft caused by the “offshoring” of personnel data. But Lewis wants $5 million from Convergys
to patch things up, and DMS is notifying employees that they can sign up for $50,000 worth of credit protection, in case anything pops up later.
Convergys said it was “misled” by a subcontractor, GDXdata, which denied violating its contract with the company. Lewis said Convergys learned of the problem
in August but didn’t tell him until last month, which Convergys disputes.
Sens. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon, who heads the committee, and Rudy Garcia, R-Hialeah, who chaired it when People First was conceived, were properly
mortified. They want all correspondence, e-mails and phone logs relative to who knew what, and when.
Democrats seemed to be looking for nice ways to say “we told you so.” Sen. Walter “Skip” Campbell, a candidate for attorney general, demanded that Convergys
send him names and locations of all its subcontractors.
U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa, running for governor, has been urging the state for a few months to protect employees. The American Federation of State, County
and Municipal Employees, which represents most state workers, also was an early and vocal critic of People First – and privatization everywhere.
Partisan potshots are hardly surprising. The Democrats, and even Republicans in Leon County’s delegation like Argenziano, said from the start that privatizing
state personnel would not be as safe, economical and user-friendly as Gov. Jeb Bush promised.
But if you’re looking for political posturing, Bush said in his State of the State speech that there are 11,000 fewer state employees now than there were
when he came to Tallahassee in 1999. If Republicans brag about shrinking government, they can’t complain when the Democrats point out how they blew it.