Federal official's endorsement of IAC officials rankles members

An endorsement by a government official of private-sector members running for committee offices has sparked an uproar in the Industry Advisory Council.

Dozens of IAC members are complaining that an endorsement Mark Emery, deputy CIO of the Homeland Security Department, gave to William A. Errico of Lexmark Federal Systems and Bob Golas of Oracle Corp., jeopardizes IAC's status as an independent voice in the federal IT arena. Errico and Golas are running for the positions of chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of IAC's Homeland Protection Special Interest Group.

IAC is the industry affiliate of the American Council for Technology, which promotes education, communication and collaboration across government.

The council's bylaws don't specifically address campaigning by government officials on behalf of member candidates, but several members said the endorsement was unprecedented and inappropriate. The Office of Management and Budget, the federal CIO Council, and technology and acquisition officials frequently use IAC as an honest information broker between the government and vendors.

Bob Woods, chairman of IAC's executive committee, said the organization's leadership, including board members, is reviewing the incident and is considering whether to impose sanctions on Errico and Golas. "There is a whole range of things we could do" in response to the incident, which "could go from doing nothing to doing something fairly severe," Woods said. He declined to specify what kind of sanctions the council could levy.

Woods said he is "not a fan" of federal officials endorsing IAC candidates.

Errico declined to comment. Golas did not respond to repeated phone calls and Emery's office said he was not available. DHS spokesman Larry Orluskie said Emery's endorsement represents his opinion and not that of the department.

Oracle is negotiating with DHS and the General Services Administration officials for a Smartbuy software license that would replace the department's hodgepodge of existing Oracle pacts.

The two executives distributed Emery's endorsement statement at a Nov. 9 business meeting of the SIG, which is reorganizing itself from a subcommittee of the council's E-government group to a full-fledged special-interest group.

Emery's five-paragraph endorsement statement praised Errico and Golas, and said, "Do not split your vote. The Homeland Protection SIG requires their mutual nurturing to see that it fulfills its objectives in its initial and formative year."

One IAC board member who agreed to discuss the matter on a not-for-attribution basis said, "The word I would use [for the endorsement] is inappropriate."

Under IAC rules, the organization's business meetings are held on a not-for-attribution basis, so participants declined to comment for the record.

But several confirmed the views of one member who said, "I would call [the endorsement] a lapse of judgement on Emery's part. If you wound up having government people saying these are the people that I want to run IAC, that would not be correct."

Another SIG member who is a former federal official said, "I think this is pretty outrageous." The member added that Emery's endorsement created the impression of DHS favoritism toward Oracle and Lexmark.

"Every time we [vendors and federal officials] get together we say there is a firewall" between the government and industry, the member said. "We cannot have a relationship that looks untoward."

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