A complaint alleges that Attorney General Charlie Crist should have investigated a corporation with links to his campaign for governor.
BY MARC CAPUTO
A whistle-blower accused Attorney General Charlie Crist and a top aide of ‘’misconduct’’ for failing to investigate a troubled — but deep-pocketed — personnel
company tied to Crist’s campaign for governor.
Crist’s office and aide George LeMieux said the ethics complaint filed Friday by Sam McDowell, former employee of the company Convergys, were “without
Convergys, which won a $350 million contract to centralize and computerize the state’s massive personnel system, was rapped for having lax security and
auditing functions in a Department of Management Services investigation McDowell prompted in a whistle-blower complaint last year.
McDowell said Crist should have investigated the firm, considering a former Convergys employee is now serving four years in prison for stealing state worker
identities and money. Convergys also is being sued by five state workers who say their identities have been stolen.
Their lawyer is McDowell’s and is connected to Crist’s Republican campaign rival, Tom Gallagher.
In a separate but related case, the company is fighting a proposed $5 million state fine for its connection to a subcontractor that may have allowed the
confidential information of up to 108,000 state employees to be accessed by labor in India, Barbados and China.
Convergys said in written statement it was ‘’misled’’ by subcontractor GDX, which also denies wrongdoing, and shouldn’t have to pay.
It is fighting the state-worker lawsuits as well.
State and company officials point out that no identities have been reported stolen in the GDX false-claims case filed by two company whistle-blowers.
Crist’s office declined to investigate that case, saying it is a “contract dispute.’’
Those whistle-blowers and their attorneys said in an article published Thursday in The Miami Herald that Crist’s office barely spoke with them before declining
‘’It sounds like my case,’’ McDowell said. “All of this has happened and Charlie Crist has not investigated. It’s unbelievable.’’
McDowell’s complaint mentions the ‘’relationship’’ between Convergys lobbyist Brian Ballard and Crist’s governor’s campaign, for which Ballard is an advisor.
Ballard said that Christ stands for and against his clients, depending on the issue.
He said Crist this week publicly opposed an effort by one of Ballard’s pharmaceutical clients to win favorable legislation during the 60-day lawmaking session
that ends May 5.
For its part, Convergys said in a written statement that the results of the original investigation launched by McDowell ‘’do not support the allegations’’
he’s now making about its connection to Crist.
McDowell’s ethics complaint faces a number of challenges, said ethics-law attorney Mark Herron.
He’s not connected to the case but represents hundreds of clients before the ethics commission.
To make the charges stick, Herron said, McDowell will have to show that Crist had a ‘’clear legal duty to have acted’’ and that Crist corruptly failed to
act for the direct benefit of Convergys.
GOP RIVAL BENEFITS
But even if the ethics case is dismissed, the allegations are already benefiting one man: Tom Gallagher, whose strategists have long planned to portray
Crist — the front-runner in money and most polls — as a do-nothing.
Democrats this week attacked the attorney general for seeming to change his position opposing abortion and for failing to investigate the GDX case, saying
it made little sense because the attorney general can’t help ‘’bloviating’’ about how he’s opposed to identity theft.
But Crist’s office said ‘’no one has done more to fight identity theft than’’ him.
“This office has been monitoring and investigating the Convergys/GDX issues for over one year.
“This case is not a false claim but is a contract dispute.’’