KIFFMEYER NOT ON THE LEVEL--AGAIN
Apparently, Mary Kiffmeyer's philosophy is the ends justify the means.
Strange for someone who as Secretary of State of Minnesota is in charge of elections - which are all about means.
On August 12, 2005, she testified before the Senate Elections Committee. Senate hearing August 12, 2005 (Real Player) She basically said that it was OK that she put a blatant falsehood into an agreement canceling a service contract, because the end result was good for the citizens of Minnesota.
Not so sure it was. In January, 2002, she hired a company to do maintenance on the voter registration system. In March, 2003, the company sent a bill for $68,000. The SOS sent back a four page letter, saying that no payment would be made--the work was unsatisfactory. (Keep in mind that the terms of the contract allowed the SOS to cancel the contract at any time, with or without a reason. The contractor was required to provide the source code that was developed for no additional charge.)
Mary told the legislative auditor that she would meet with the Attorney General and Department of Administration to decide how to cancel this contract. But she never did. Maybe she didn't want AG Mike Hatch to know about this mess.
So she signed an agreement with the unsatisfactory contractor, paying them $48,130 of the $68,000 billed, and signing a statement as follows: "The State agrees that all personnel participants to this contract will not give either verbal or written statements to anyone as to the cancellation of this contract other than it was cancelled by reason of the State of Minnesota's budget cuts."
Everybody who signed that agreement knew it was not true. The budget cuts were not the sole, or even a primary, reason for the cancellation.
The literal meaning of this clause is that Mary Kiffmeyer would violate the agreement if she answered truthfully to the Legislative Auditor or to a Senate committee about this cancellation.
Crucial lie before the committee: Mary claims that the "unsatisfactory performance" referred to is simply that the system no longer met the needs of Minnesota. Refer once again to the four page letter: the complaint is clearly about bugs and errors in the software, not the overall system.
Mary never admitted that she agreed to something false. She said the agreement was necessary to quickly get the source code that the company had produced, even though the company was required to provide it to the state pursuant to the contract. She made it sound like she wanted to avoid litigation over that issue.
Litigation, or embarrassment?
Like most dishonesty, the consequence is not avoiding embarrassment, but delaying it.
As Minnesotans, we don't want our officials avoiding the use of their own attorneys. There are some people in Mary's office that happen to be lawyers. But the Secretary's lawyer is Mike Hatch. She should have sucked it up and contacted the AG as soon as there were problems with the contractor. I'm skeptical that this source code was worth $48,130 of the taxpayers' money. We may never know.
David Poliseno of the Legislative Audit Commission testified as follows: "Nothing that we found in the files indicated that [budget cuts were] the reason for them cancelling the contract, and most of the documentation centered on the fact that they were dissatisfied with the service. Regardless, the state had the option of cancelling the contract at any time with 30 days notice. And within that time, they would have been entitled to receive anything that had been developed by the contractor. So they could have avoided paying for further payment of the source code, and possibly they could have received it without having to go through the legal battle."
To download the full report as a PDF, go to http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/fad/2005 and look at Pages 12-13 of the PDF, which are pages 8-9 of the report.
To see video of the Senate hearing, click below. You will need Real Player installed on your computer. The video starts with the Legislative Auditor. Then if you skip ahead to 40:30 you can hear her evasive answers to the senators' questions.
Another Senate hearing November 29, 2005. Mary Kiffmeyer twists the truth about her level of dissatisfaction with their services: "fast forward" to 21:16, discussion continues to 25:20. Or read the transcript to the left. Compare her version of dissatisfaction with the actual four page letter her office sent out.