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Elections Worker Is Transferred

A state employee involved with screening new voting machines is moved after it is revealed that her father is an official at a ballot-printing facility.

November 15, 2003|Tim Reiterman | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has removed the daughter of a voting machine company official from her new job helping to screen election machines for use in California.

Shelley, who is tightening conflict-of-interest rules for his office, said he had ordered the job change for Brianna Lierman to avoid the appearance of a conflict.

Lierman started working at the elections office in 2001 but recently was reassigned to work for the voting systems panel, which recommends whether machines should be certified. Her father, Brian Lierman, oversees a Sequoia Voting Systems ballot-printing facility near Fresno.

The job transfer on Monday was made after Kim Alexander of the nonprofit California Voting Foundation voiced concerns to Shelley's office.

"There is the potential for conflict of interest if she has access to the inner workings of systems of companies in competition with her father's company," Alexander said in an interview.

Shelley, who moved Lierman to her former job, which was working on voter information pamphlets, emphasized that she was a good employee and had not violated any rules. However, he said, his office has been drafting a new policy to bar employees from decisions that even indirectly affect a relative's financial interests.

"This entire process has to be beyond reproach and beyond influence," he said.

The Times reported Monday that Shelley also was tightening his office rules to prohibit an employee from making or influencing decisions that even indirectly affect a company with which the employee is exploring a future job. Another rule would prohibit an employee from discussing a job with a business if the employee had done anything within the previous year affecting the business.

A number of public officials have gone to work for voting machine companies. Within the last year or so, two of former Secretary of State Bill Jones' aides joined Sequoia as full-time employees, and in recent months Jones began part-time consulting and lobbying for the company.

Jones' former point man for voting machine certification took a job with a competing firm.

Major voting machine companies are competing for as much as $400 million in government funds provided by a state ballot initiative after Florida's problems with equipment in the 2000 presidential election.

Alexander said Lierman, as a UC Davis student, had worked as an intern and part-time employee at the foundation for several months in 2000 and 2001 before joining the secretary of state's office.

Jones, who left office this year after two terms, said that he had no personnel connection to Lierman and had been unaware that Lierman's father worked for Sequoia. He said that Lierman was one of many interns and that his office did not check to determine whether employees had relatives in the election industry.

Shelley said he hadn't known until recently that Lierman had a family connection to Sequoia.

He acknowledged that she recently made a presentation to the voting panel regarding certification of another company's voting machine, but he said the analysis had been done by another employee.

Lierman could not be reached for comment.

Sequoia Vice President Alfie Charles, a former spokesman for then-Secretary of State Jones, said Brian Lierman declined to comment, except to say that he does not discuss his business with his daughter.

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