Firms tied to Texas comptroller hired after breach

April 27, 2011 6:59:50 PM PDT
Looking for ways to cope with inadvertently exposing the personal data of 3.5 million Texans, the state's comptroller has retained the services of two firms whose leaders or political committees contributed over $50,000 to her campaign.

The FBI and Texas attorney general's office are investigating after addresses and Social Security numbers -- and in some cases birth dates and driver license numbers -- were left for nearly a year or even longer on a server controlled by the office of Comptroller Susan Combs that was accessible to the public.

Combs said the exposed information was blocked from public access and began to be moved to a secure location once her office discovered the problem March 31. But those affected didn't learn of the problem until her office announced it April 11.

The information breach has cost state taxpayers $1.8 million in services and contracts so far, The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday.

The newspaper said Combs' office recruited at least four companies to help respond to the leak, which affected members of the Teacher Retirement System, the Texas Employees Retirement System and the Texas Workforce Commission.

Combs spokesman R. J. DeSilva said the companies were chosen based on proven track records.

"Campaign contributions have nothing to do with these contracts," he said.

Two consulting companies Combs hired, Deloitte Consulting and Gartner Inc., were retained through contracts that weren't subject to competitive bids. DeSilva said both have done work for the comptroller's office and were pre-approved as vendors by the Texas Department of Information Resources.

Deloitte Consulting was hired for $57,000. A Deloitte political action committee gave $44,000 to Combs in her campaigns for comptroller from 2006 to 2010, the newspaper reported.

Gartner Inc., is getting $233,000 under its new contract with Combs' office. It was dropped last year due to a potential conflict of interest from a contract with the Texas Lottery Commission, after it was revealed Gartner was also doing work for the lottery's operator, Gtech Corp, the newspaper reported.

Also, two identity theft protection companies, CSIdentity and Experian, have arranged with Combs' office to provide deep discounts for credit monitoring services to Texans whose data was exposed. Neither is being paid by the comptroller's office for doing so.

CSIdentity board member James Mansour contributed $9,000 to Combs in 2008 and 2009, according to The Dallas Morning News.

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