In today’s Washington Post, Walter Pincus picks up on the all-too-cozy relationship between Charlottesville’s National Ground Intelligence Center and the scandal-ridden MZM, Inc., specifically the matter of Scott Rich. (It was Pincus who first discovered that former NGIC executive director William Rich had taken a job with MZM.)
Pincus, because he’s a journalist and I’m not, has looked into the specifics of the relationship between MZM and NGIC with regard to William RIch and his son, Scott. According to the Army, the connections were properly vetted:
The senior Rich “was not involved in matters concerning MZM’s work at the NGIC except in the normal way of the executive director’s responsibility to oversee all the programs run at the facility,” according to a statement by Deborah Parker, chief of public affairs for the Army Intelligence and Security Command, which oversees the NGIC.
When the younger Rich was hired by MZM, “in line with joint ethics regulations, [Rich senior] was required to inform his superiors and recuse himself from dealing with the [MZM] company,” Parker’s statement said. Parker did not provide the date Rich recused himself.
When the senior Rich resigned from the NGIC in September 2003, he joined MZM as a senior executive vice president for intelligence. “The circumstances of Mr. Rich’s employment with MZM were thoroughly reviewed by Army officials,” according to Parker, and “no evidence of impropriety was found.”
The Ethics in Government Act barred Rich, as a senior manager, from having dealings with the NGIC for one year after his employment by MZM.
So while, yes, Rich did go straight to MZM from NGIC, that is apparently not prohibited — it’s only then doing business with NGIC that’s prohibited. MZM can do business with NGIC. Just not Rich.
An old friend of mine is also a long-time friend of William Rich. He called me up a few days ago to talk about this. He pointed out just what Walter Pincus has pointed out — Rich is wholly within the letter of the law and, to his perception, a good guy. FWIW.
All of this points to the larger matter of the relationship between MZM and NGIC. As Pincus writes, the lines between MZM and NGIC are very blurry. NGIC employees are lured away by MZM with higher salaries, and put right back on the projects they were on while employed by NGIC. This is probably illegal, but it’s very fuzzy:
The Ethics in Government Act’s standards differ for executives, managers and workers who leave government employment and take up the same work as a private contractor. But agency leaders once engaged in awarding contracts are barred from then seeking contracts from the same agency.
If a former intelligence center’s employee recruited an ex-colleague on behalf of a private contractor such as MZM, the recruiter’s status and rank would be factors in determining whether an ethics violation had occurred.
And, of course, there remains the matter of MZM hiring Scott Rich while his father was the head of MZM, overseeing the very contract that brought about Scott’s hiring. Illegal? I have no idea. Improper? Quite likely.
Two points to Walter Pincus and the Post for tenacity on this. I’ll hold onto a couple more points for the reporter who digs into the relationship between the Foxfield Races and the fallen Rep. Randy Cunningham. There’s a bonus point for figuring out what Rep. Virgil Goode has to do with it all. And, y’know, you can redeem those points for a personal pan pizza at participating Pizza Huts.