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Published: Saturday, 6/30/2001

State probe points to possible charges for ex-agency chief

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - A former director of the defunct Ohio Department of Human Services maneuvered multimillion-dollar contracts to global technology giants hoping it would pay off handsomely later, a state investigation suggests.

Inspector General Thomas Charles yesterday recommended possible criminal charges against Arnold R. Tompkins, who headed the agency from 1993 to 1998, and Donna Givens, considered the “common thread” in securing unbid contracts while working as a double-consultant for the state and Accenture, Inc.

After leaving office, Mr. Tompkins founded a consulting firm that counted Chicago-based Accenture, formerly Andersen Consulting, and Virginia-based American Management Systems as clients, at monthly retainers of $10,000 each.

“We are unable to conclude that his acts were intended to be in the best interests of the state,” the report reads. “Rather, it seems clear that he was merely attempting to establish goodwill and guarantee future business with both Andersen and AMS after he left state service.”

The charges stem from $63 million in contracts awarded without competitive bid to Accenture and $87 million to AMS for welfare reform-related projects.

The contract awards occurred under Mr. Tompkins' watch during the Voinovich administration and the renewals continued under his successor, Jacqueline Romer-Sensky, at the new Department of Job and Family Services under Governor Taft.

“If the facts are true, I'm terribly disappointed in what Director Tompkins did during and after he left state service,” said U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio). “He let me and the citizens of Ohio down and will have to face the consequences of his actions.”

The report criticized Ms. Romer-Sensky's oversight of the contracts, the consultants' work, and the verification of the fees they charged. It noted her brief consulting partnership with Mr. Tompkins prior to joining the Taft administration.

“While we do not find reasonable cause to believe Ms. Romer-Sensky committed an act of wrongdoing in this instance, we note that the appearance of impropriety may have been unavoidable under these circumstances,” the report reads.

Ms. Romer-Sensky, who resigned in March, could not be reached for comment.

According to the report, Mr. Tompkins ignored the recommendations of an internal committee in order to give the welfare reform-related contracts to Accenture. Most of the work Accenture did for the state involved OhioWorks.com, an Internet web site meant to be a convenient system of matching job-seekers with employers and tracking employment trends. Those who use it deemed the system a failure.

“When you look at a situation where a government initiative in excess of $60 million has gone south, everyone's looking for an explanation,” said Mr. Tompkins' attorney, Larry James. “The implication of the paper trail is that there was a pay-to-play scheme. We don't think there was. You can question judgment and management, but does that amount to criminality?”

The paper trail includes:

  • A draft letter from Mr. Tompkins to Brian Hicks, Mr. Taft's chief-of-staff, boasting about Ohio Works. The draft was apparently written just 10 months after Mr. Tompkins left public office. State law prohibits consultants from lobbying their former employers for at least a year after they've left office. The governor's office could not confirm whether it received the letter.

  • An internal Accenture strategy memo written by Ms. Givens while she worked as a consultant for the company and the department. “Among the various strategies she discussed in the memo are how to ensure Andersen contract extensions through Mr. Tompkins, and how to position Mr. Tompkins after he leaves state government,” the report reads.

  • Phone records showing 62 phone calls from agency employees to Mr. Tompkins during the first year after he left and evidence that he'd inquired about the status of Accenture's contract during that time.

    Except for the firm's consulting deal with Tompkins-Sensky Ltd., the investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of AMS in acquiring its contracts, which included work on the state's troubled child-support collection system. Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O'Brien said he will review the report to decide if he'll submit it to a grand jury.



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