by Dan Way
A bill moving through the state House of Representatives would impose a six-month waiting period on state employees before they could work for businesses that contract with the state, and companies would lose their state contracts if they violated the moratorium.
Known as the No Revolving Door Employment Act, House Bill 1036 passed the House State Personnel Committee on June 18 and was referred to Judiciary Subcommittee A.
“The reason that this bill has come before you today [is] in the last few months, and maybe even in the last year, we look back and we see people who have been hired by state agencies, and at certain times there are contracts for computer services and programs, in most cases these are very lucrative, and we spend a lot of time on these contracts,” said state Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie.
“And the next thing we see that happens, the state employee who has been charged to help negotiate those contracts, they leave the state agency and go to work for the vendor,” Howard said.
She said she was “not going to be as pointed as to tell you exact cases and names,” but inferred that committee members had recall of examples.
It is likely Howard was referring to the high-profile case involved Paul Guthery, who was an IT manager with the Department of Health and Human Services. Hired in January 2010, he was earning $126,500 a year as the state’s go-to employee overseeing the testing of NC Tracks, a new Medicaid billing system.
Guthery quit the job in August 2013, and went to work days later with Computer Sciences Corp., the contractor in charge of development and implementation of NC Tracks, which continues to be plagued with problems. State Auditor Beth Wood and others criticized the move as a conflict of interest, and calls arose for a moratorium law.
HB 1036, “prohibits the executive administration and other entities of the state from contracting for goods or services with a vendor that employs a contractor or a person who is a former state employee, and uses that person in the administration of a contract with the state” within six months of that employee leaving state government, Howard said.
As part of the bidding process vendors would have to certify in writing that they are not using a former state employee to help negotiate or administer a contract with the state.
The bill would make it a felony to falsify bid documents to shield disclosure of a state employee violating the six-month moratorium. The “cooling-off” period is the same length of time applied to legislators and some state employees before they can become lobbyists.
The State Personnel Committee passed the bill on a unanimous, bipartisan vote. If signed into law, the act would become effective Oct. 1.