It seems, once again, that this is turning into a partison issue, when it really doesn’t need to be.
The Florida State AG just seems to be very incompetent.
And Convergys would be corrupt even if they did donate to the Democratic party.
Their corruption has nothing to do with their political affiliation.
Convergys is corrupt simply because they can be, and there’s no one willing to stop them.
i hope this case doesn’t just fizzle out due to political pressure, because someone needs to be held accountable.
If the politicians don’t do something, (as they tend to do, whether Republican or Democrat), then the state employees who have been effected by this need to protest.
This kind of thing should not be allowed to go on, no matter how much profit is being made.
For the record, I’m not saying that every Indian call center worker is a thief.
But companies shouldn’t be allowed to violate their contracts without blinking.
If any of us on the bottom rung try to do something like that, say break a lease, no matter what the reason, we get screwed.
A scandal over the improper release of confidential state worker information is nagging at Attorney General Charlie Crist, who declined to investigate the
case and now faces questions from political opponents.
BY MARC CAPUTO
TALLAHASSEE – The disclosure that a company doing work for the state may have given cheap labor in India access to the confidential information of up to
100,000 state employees — making them vulnerable to identity theft — is starting to haunt the governor’s race of state Attorney General Charlie Crist,
who declined to investigate the case.
The issue was first revealed by two whistle-blowers who said they were so worried about what Denver-based GDX was doing, that they asked for Crist’s help
in a lawsuit replete with internal company e-mails and spreadsheets.
But the response, they said, ‘’appalled’’ them even more: They heard almost nothing from his office, which declined to take the case without explanation.
As strategists from Crist’s Republican opponent, Tom Gallagher, take note, Democrats are now trying to use the case to define Crist as an incompetent do-nothing.
Democrats also say Crist is beholden to a powerful company involved in the case, Convergys, which hired a lobbyist who’s a Crist advisor. Convergys, a computer-systems
firm that won a $350 million contract to computerize and centralize Florida’s personnel records, hired GDX as a subcontractor and now faces a $5 million
Crist, who has meticulously burnished his credentials as a champion of the little guy and a staunch opponent of identity theft, dismissed the attacks as
‘’part of the deal’’ in a ‘’political season.’’ He noted that no one’s identity has been reported stolen.
Still, the state’s Department of Management Services is notifying employees of the possibility of a ‘’breach’’ of confidential information, such as people’s
Social Security numbers and medical history. But DMS says it has no idea if the data were misused, or whom it was seen by in India, which is not bound
by any U.S. or Florida laws protecting people from identity theft. The lawsuit also mentions the possibility the workers’ information was sent to China
and Barbados, also beyond the reach of American ID-theft laws.
The problems began soon after Convergys won its contract and hired GDX in 2003 to help index the electronic — and confidential — personnel records. Convergys’
contract specified that the work must be performed in Denver or Jacksonville. Convergys officials now say GDX misled them and allowed workers in Bangalore,
India, to work on the records. GDX declined to comment.
One of the whistleblowers, GDX worker Kristina Gilmore, told The Miami Herald that it it was clear GDX would use ‘’offshore’’ labor to cut costs right from
the start. She said Convergys should have suspected this because of the cheap cost of GDX’s contract — a claim Convergys disputes. Convergys refused to
provide the Deparment of Management Services a copy of the contract that showed how much it was paying GDX for its services.
Gilmore said she and co-worker Tara Pagano were so worried, they filed a lawsuit in Tallahassee in March 2005 to alert state officials to the ‘’fraud’’
perpetrated by GDX because it was putting people’s identities at risk.
Gilmore said she was ‘’disappointed and appalled’’ by what Crist’s office did: Nothing. Her court filing included GDX e-mails mentioning the challenges
of doing the ‘’Florida job’’ on ‘’India time,’’ as well as lists of Indian workers who were working on the files.
‘’I was definitely shocked and surprised that no one would think enough about what the potential was for identity theft to at least ask some questions,’’
she said. “Tara had lived in Florida and she and I had conversations about the fact that, because of the political issues, that the AG’s office did not
want to take it on.’’
Crist said his office began ‘’taking a look’’ into the case three weeks ago — a year after the suit was filed — because ‘’new facts are developed every
day.’’ But he said he was unaware that DMS and Convergys told a legislative committee last week that a security breach had occurred.
Crist suggested the whistle-blowers’ law firm — Tampa-based James, Hoyer & Newcomer — “may be somewhat frustrated that we did not sign on with them [and
join the lawsuit]. We have private counsel who come to our office every week wanting us to sign on to this action and that action.’’
Crist’s office issued a written statement Wednesday listing all the work it had done on the India case, including ‘’consulting’’ with the Tampa law firm.
Not true, said attorney John Newcomer. He said Crist’s office called only a few times to inquire about “procedural issues, nothing substantive.’’
‘’It’s not sour grapes. We will prosecute the case on behalf of the state of Florida. If the AG doesn’t think it’s important enough, we do. We will do their
work for them,’’ said Newcomer, who found the lack of interest by Crist’s office “unusual.’’
The nation’s premier expert on such whistleblower actions, Washington-based attorney Jack Boese, said normally government investigators talk to the whistle-blowers
and their lawyers. But Boese said, the attorney general probably relied on the counsel of DMS in deciding not to take the case.
Crist said his agency didn’t get involved because it was ultimately a matter for DMS, which oversees the Convergys contract. DMS secretary Tom Lewis said
he knew little of the suit and never discouraged Crist’s office from getting involved.
Lewis checked with Convergys and was told in a May 20 letter that no work was performed outside the United States.
Lewis said last week he now believes Convergys knew some of its work was performed overseas, and therefore proposed the $5 million fine. Convergys denies
it knew of the offshore work and said it shouldn’t have to pay the fine. It has agreed to set up a program to help state employees alert officials to identity
Lewis said his department gathered its information after heading to Denver, where its investigators interviewed Gilmore and Pagano in February — the first
contact they had with Florida officials in the year after filing the action.
Democrats say Crist did nothing for an overarching reason: Convergys is a Republican Party donor and hired a top Crist campaign advisor, lobbyist Brian
Ballard said Democrats are grandstanding and there’s no merit to their claim.
Said Crist: “I would encourage them to stay tuned and not be too judgmental.’’