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Ex-FEMA official pleads guilty in conflict case

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 15, 2013 at 1:45 p.m.

— The former director of human resources at the Federal Emergency Management Agency pleaded guilty Tuesday to negotiating a job for himself at the Gallup Organization while he was supervising Gallup’s multimillion-dollar contract with FEMA.

Timothy W. Cannon, 63, faces up to five years in prison on the conflict-of-interest charge. However, federal sentencing guidelines call for a range of zero to six months in prison because Cannon has no previous criminal conviction and has accepted responsibility for his actions in the case. Sentencing is scheduled for April 9.

According to federal prosecutors, Gallup was hired for $6 million in August 2008 to administer the BEST Workforce Initiative at FEMA. In December 2008 and January 2009, Cannon requested additional money for the project. Cannon had an employment interview with Gallup in January 2009 and Cannon accepted a job offer while continuing to work on the BEST Workforce Initiative. When Gallup employees raised questions about the arrangement, the firm withdrew the offer.

Cannon’s lawyer, David Schertler, said earlier this month that his client is “looking to get this matter behind him.” Gallup vice president William E. Kruse has said the criminal charge was not against Gallup, but rather the Justice Department’s allegations against a former FEMA employee and that there is nothing Gallup can comment on.

Cannon’s conduct came to light last year in a lawsuit a fired Gallup employee brought against the polling company alleging Gallup filed false claims on contracts with the U.S. Mint, the State Department, FEMA and the Office of Personnel Management. The Justice Department has now joined that lawsuit to recover alleged overpayments to Gallup.

The criminal charge against Cannon does not identify Gallup by name, referring to the firm only as Company A. However, the fired employee’s false-claims lawsuit identifies Gallup in the context of Cannon’s activities at both FEMA and in negotiating a job with the polling and consulting company.

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