Raleigh, N.C. — A key legislative oversight panel is backing a cooling-off period for state workers who oversee contracts before they can take a job with the vendor they oversee.
The Joint Program Evaluation Oversight Committee will hear and vote on the proposed "revolving-door" bill next month.
The legislation is still in drafting stages, but co-chairwoman Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, said Wednesday that it will be similar to the six-month cooling-off period required for lawmakers seeking to become lobbyists.
The bill was apparently inspired by Paul Guthery, the former contract manager for NCTracks, the state's troubled new Medicaid billing system. Shortly after the program was rolled out last summer and as problems with it mounted, Guthery left his state position and went to work for Computer Sciences Corp., the vendor that designed NCTracks.
Guthery's last day at the Department of Health and Human Services was the same as his first day at CSC – Aug. 27.
A spokeswoman for CSC pointed out that there were no state laws barring Guthery's hire. A spokesman for DHHS claimed Guthery was not the sole decision-maker on the launch of NCTracks July 1.
Regardless, State Auditor Beth Wood blasted the move last fall when speaking to a legislative committee, saying Guthery had been the "point person" in charge of certifying that NCTracks was tested and ready to go live, when neither was the case.
Howard said the bill will require a waiting period for "several layers" of state employees who sign and oversee contracts.
"We're going to go pretty deep," she said. "Within two weeks, they're leaving the state of North Carolina, and they're going to work for that vendor? It just doesn't pass the smell test.
"We believe that this is fair," Howard added. "It's just simply the right thing to do. These are taxpayers' dollars, and you should not be negotiating a contract with a vendor and then being hired by that vendor the next morning."
If the committee votes to approve the draft legislation at April's meeting, it will be eligible for consideration in the 2014 legislative session.