A General Services Administration employee suspected of leaking proprietary phone contract information has a daughter who is employed at one of the companies that allegedly received information from him, GSA said last night.
As a result, GSA said it would ask a federal disputes board to expedite inquiries at the company, Atlanta-based BellSouth Corp.
If the woman or employees there invoke their Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent, GSA said, it would not oppose voiding a major contract that BellSouth won and giving it to its competitor in the bidding, American Telephone & Telegraph Co.
BellSouth confirmed last night the employment of the daughter. The company described her as an entry-level manager in an operators services organization of Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of BellSouth. BellSouth had no further comment last night.
GSA's disclosure was the latest development in a complex investigation into the awarding of $55 million in long distance switching contracts for the federal government's phone system last October. Capitol Hill and the telephone industry are watching the case closely because GSA will award much larger contracts later this year for a new federal telecommunications system called FTS-2000.
Earlier this week, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee said that an investigation by its staff had found evidence that a GSA employee, Sureshar L. Soni, leaked secret data from AT&T's bids to employees at a BellSouth subsidiary and the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., which operates local service in the Washington area.
Yesterday, Bell Atlantic Corp., C&P's parent company, condemned the Senate committee's report and said it would not cooperate with the Senate until company officers had a chance to meet with committee chairman John Glenn (D-Ohio).
Bell Atlantic president Raymond W. Smith said an off-hand remark by a GSA employee to a C&P employee that "$40 was the price to beat" -- an apparent reference to Soni's alleged statements -- could not have been useful to Bell Atlantic in formulating its own bid, which Smith said was always substantially lower than that.
Smith said his company believed the $40 referred not to AT&T's secret bid price but to the published price AT&T was charging in D.C.
The result of the company's cooperation with the committee so far, Smith said in a statement, "has been the premature release of misleading and false reports even before the investigation has been completed." The reputations of Bell Atlantic and C&P have been "seriously damaged," he said.