The old saying, “closing the barn door after the horse has gone,” cannot be more appropriate in Mike Coffman’s Secretary of State’s office concerning the mishaps of one of Coffman’s political consultants and current $75,760/year SOS employee, Dan Kopelman. The dealings of one “bad apple” could be shrouding other staff members who have worked to keep neutrality and high standards of trustworthiness in the SOS office. And no one is more concerned about the Kopelman fiasco than former SOS CIO manager Brian Balay.“When the State Auditor is called in to check everything going on in the Secretary of State’s office,” Balay said, “it makes the public wonder ‘what else is going on?’ which hurts everyone on the SOS staff,” he noted. “There are a lot of good people there and their dedication doesn’t deserve this scrutiny caused by one person.”
Kopelman was demoted in a disciplinary action for supposidly selling state voter databases to Republican candidates via his own web site and consulting services. As reported by Dan Whipple earlier, the Colorado State Auditor has expanded a current audit of the SOS office to include a determination of whether Kopelman misused state resources and to look at whether the SOS office has been adequately performing its functions.
Balay started as a programmer in the SOS office and worked his way up the ranks serving at the Chief Information Officer (CIO) from 1999 to 2007. Although he retired in March, Balay briefly worked at the SOS office at the same time as Kopelman.
Balay noted that Kopleman had been wrongly identified as the technology manager in the SOS Information Systems Division. “That’s not true, he worked in the Elections Division and does not have a state classified I.T. position.” Kopelman was later identified as the election operations manager who mostly dealt with the vendors in certifying election machines. Since the start of the investigation, in addition to the cut of pay, Kopelman can no longer work on the recertification of electronic-voting systems or engage in any outside business without permission from Coffman.
Is the voter registration data vulnerable to manipulation? “No one can permanently change the voter registration data in-house because the SOS does not originate the information. It all comes from the counties and that data is refreshed continuously,” explained Balay. “Kopelman may be knowledgeable about a lot of things, but his latent use of computers was limited to PC’s. The voter registration data is kept in a much more complicated computer system,” Balay emphasized.
“I think it was wrong to move Kopelman laterally in the SOS office,” opined Balay. “For the sake of others in the SOS office, Kopelman should have been moved to a state department that is far away from the SOS office like Human Services.”
If an employee had worked for Balay and was found guilty of misusing SOS information for partisan activities, Balay would have fired that person. “It’s important to keep nonpartisan professionalism in the SOS department,” he said. “Despite the actions of one person, I want the public to know that there are a lot of honest ethical people working there.”