The Washington Post

Former FEMA official gets probation in conflict-of-interest case involving Gallup

A former senior FEMA official was sentenced to probation Tuesday in a conflict-of-interest case involving a multimillion-dollar government contract with a polling and market research firm.

Timothy W. Cannon, the former human resources director at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, pleaded guilty in January to trying to arrange a job for himself at the Gallup Organization at the same time he was overseeing and trying to expand the firm’s contract with his government agency.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Cannon’s actions represented “more than bad judgment.”

“There’s an appropriate way to go about it, and this wasn’t it,” she said.

Cannon, 63, has been barred from future government contracting work and has agreed to pay a $40,000 fine in a separate civil case. In that federal whistleblower case, which names Cannon, the Justice Department alleges that Gallup inflated its cost estimates and work hours for three federal agencies.

The whistleblower case resulted when a former Gallup employee approached the Justice Department alleging that he witnessed the company repeatedly inflate its prices. The former employee also accused Gallup of promising a job to Cannon while the FEMA official was helping expand the company’s contract.

Standing at the courtroom lectern Tuesday, Cannon apologized to his family, friends and former federal colleagues for a “lapse in judgment.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Johnson, whose office recommended a sentence of probation, said Cannon’s conduct was the “quintessential example of the revolving door of government” and a “prime example of why citizens are cynical about their government.”

According to court documents, Cannon was instrumental in getting FEMA to hire Gallup in 2008 to work on improving employee morale in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Soon after requesting additional funding for Gallup’s contract, Cannon formally interviewed with the company and eventually received an offer letter for a six-figure salary.

When Cannon announced his retirement in early 2009, he did not list his employment arrangement with Gallup in a financial disclosure report as he was required to do. Gallup pulled the plug on Cannon’s employment, however, after a company employee raised red flags because of concerns from people at FEMA.

Ann covers legal affairs in the District and Maryland for the Washington Post. Ann previously covered state government and politics in California, New Hampshire and Maryland. She joined the Post in 2005.

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