was asked to resign in the wake of the Cover Oregon mess. (The Associated Press)
, the former Oregon Health Authority official at the center of the storm of Oregon's non-functional health insurance exchange, was investigated by the state of California for inappropriate contracting in 2008, The Oregonian
Upon being hired by the California Public Utility Commission in 2008, Lawson funneled five contracts worth nearly $500,000 in a four-month period to the small consulting company run by her former boss in the private sector.
The former boss was Steven Powell, who Lawson later hired as her senior deputy in Oregon.
was asked to resign in December, the state promoted Powell to replace her.
State officials were tight-lipped about the matter Friday, other than to say they didn't know about California's contracting probe when they hired Lawson
"This was not disclosed by Lawson or any of her references," OHA spokeswoman Patty Wentz said.
could not be reached.
Bruce Goldberg, the former OHA director who directly supervised Lawson, said Lawson and other state managers misled him when they claimed the exchange site would work.
Lawson joined the California Public Utility Commission as its chief information officer in February 2008.
According to California state records obtained by The Oregonian
pushed back, pointing out that her
office did ask other companies to bid for the contracts.
But these firms chose not to submit bids.
The controller's office ruled that under the state's small business contracting rules, that wasn't good enough.
Agencies are required to obtain at least two bids before awarding a contract.
The controller's investigation also questioned how Lawson and her employer managed its contracting process.
"internal control over contract procurement is weak, as one individual exerts significant influence over the entire contract and contract-related payments processes," the report said.
In other words, Lawson
identified the PUC's
IT-related projects and contracts, she
played an instrumental role in selecting prospective vendors, evaluating their bids and qualifications, and approving payment.
"The fact that one individual is exerting control and influence over the entire contract-awarding process represents a serious internal control weakness that could lead to abuse in the contracting process and/or improper payments," the report said.
and Powell had known one another for years.
In March 2010, Lawson left the California PUC and joined the California Office of the State Chief Information Officer.
Camicia counts himself a fan of Lawson's
The state culled the list to three and after two rounds of interviews hired Lawson.
began with the state in July 2011.
The move was a goldmine for Lawson
Oregon agreed to pay her
more than $171,264 a year and had bumped up her
compensation to more than $178,000 by 2013.
In California, her
salary hovered between $95,000-$99,000.