A former Federal Emergency Management Agency executive pleaded guilty Tuesday to arranging employment with a polling and consulting firm that held a multimillion-dollar contract with the agency.

Former FEMA human resources director Timothy W. Cannon, 63, landed an offer for a six-figure job offer with The Gallup Organization while arranging a $6 million contract for the company to handle the agency’s “BEST Workforce Initiative,” according to a news release from the Justice Department.

Cannon, who led FEMA’s human resources division from July 2007 through February 2009, pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest charge Tuesday at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He faces a penalty of up to five years in federal prison.

FEMA hired Gallup in August 2008 to administer its workforce initiative.

Cannon requested additional money for the project in December 2008 and January 2009, according to the Justice Department release. He interviewed with Gallup in January 2009 and accepted a job offer while continuing to work on the BEST Workforce Initiative, the statement said.

According to the news release, Gallup’s CEO said in an e-mail to another company employee that “I don’t think these guys are as expensive as one might think,” referring to discussions about hiring Cannon.

Gallup offered Cannon employment on Feb. 9, 2009, guaranteeing him a minimum annual salary of $175,000 for two years, the Justice Department said. Later that month, Cannon retired from FEMA and filed a public financial disclosure report that indicated he had no agreements for future employment.

Cannon asked Gallup to provide him with an offer letter dated on the day of his retirement from FEMA “so that it would falsely appear that Cannon received [the firm’s] offer after he had resigned,” according to the Justice Department.

A Gallup employee expressed concerns about Cannon’s hiring in March 2009, and the firm withdrew its offer to the former FEMA executive.

William E. Kruse, a vice president and associate counsel with the company, said by e-mail that the firm would not comment on Cannon’s plea because “these allegations and charges were not against Gallup.”

Cannon’s plea agreement does not identify Gallup, but the former FEMA executive is named separately as a defendant in a civil case that one of the firm’s employees brought against the company.

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