Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has asked state investigators to look into the opposite interests of a well-known Annapolis lobbyist who represents two companies involved in the overhaul of the state's voting machine system.
Ehrlich requested the inquiry last week after learning that Gilbert J. Genn, a former Montgomery County delegate, is registered as a lobbyist for Diebold Election Systems Inc., the company that has a $ 55 million contract to provide the state with its electronic voting system, and Science Applications International Corp., the computer security company the state recently hired to examine the Diebold voting machines for flaws.
"It was a complete surprise to the administration," Shareese N. DeLeaver, a spokeswoman for Ehrlich, said yesterday.
The request by the governor to the State Ethics Commission was first reported yesterday in the Baltimore Sun.
Genn is listed on the Ethics Commission's Web site as the lobbyist for 11 companies, including Diebold and Science Applications.
"I encourage and welcome a review by the State Ethics Commission to validate that the independent third party examination by SAIC of the Diebold Voting System and the State of Maryland's Election Procedures was not in any way compromised," Genn said in a statement yesterday.
Genn, who is registered to do work for both companies, said he has not received any compensation from Science Applications in the past 31/2 years. His last work for the company was from November 1999 to April 2000, when he received $ 69,000 for representing it on cancer research matters.
"While the information is public and can easily be found, it was not necessarily disclosed [to the administration], and we had an obligation to disclose [the potential conflict] to the State Ethics Commission," DeLeaver said. Ehrlich asked Science Applications to review Diebold's machines last month. The company released its report last week.
DeLeaver said the administration did not know what type of work Genn has done for the two companies.
"Those are the lingering questions that we have that a potential conflict could exist," she said. "We entered this on the up and up, and we want to involve [the State Ethics Commission] to live up to that spirit."
The governor's request for an independent review of Diebold came on the heels of an analysis by computer security experts at Johns Hopkins University who found that the company's touch-screen machines had major flaws that could potentially change the outcome of an election.
Hopkins's Information Security Institute reported that Diebold's machines were so susceptible to security risks that even an inexperienced hacker could wreak havoc on the state's election process.
In its study released Thursday, Science Applications found 328 security weaknesses, 26 of them critical, in the new computerized system, which is supposed to be in full operation by the March presidential primary election. State officials said they will correct the problems identified in the Science Applications report and have the system ready by then.
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