State lines

Federal funding focus. George Newstrom, Virginia's secretary of technology, is trying to increase federal R&D funding for state colleges and companies.

Newstrom last month hired K.C. Das and Leonard Ferrari as special assistants who will advise him on a coordinated strategy for obtaining federal R&D money.

Das was the director of Virginia's Office of Science and Technology. He helped develop a small business innovation and research program for the state, directed Virginia's Superfund program and was the director of administration for the state's Environmental Quality Department.

For the past two years, Ferrari has been the vice provost for special initiatives at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He also served as the head of the electrical engineering department at the university and helped create Virginia Tech's master's of IT program.

CIO violation. Utah CIO Phillip Windley and others in the Information Technology Services Office violated state personnel and contracting rules to hire former employees of Excite At Home, a bankrupt company where Windley had worked, state auditors said.

'We think what happened here is probably some bad management,' legislative auditor general Wayne Welsh said. Abuse of personnel rules is not a criminal matter, he said.

'The CIO and some other officials exhibited favoritism to employees of Excite At Home'and they circumvented procedures to get those employees on board,' Welsh said.

The auditors' investigation of the matter appeared in a report issued Monday on hiring practices of the CIO and ITS. 'While individual cases may not raise strong concerns, taken together we believe these cases display a pattern which does yield strong concerns of favoritism,' the report said. The auditors questioned practices used to hire nine state employees, according to the report.

Justice money. South Dakota's Internet Crimes Against Children unit has received a $1 million Justice Department grant to help support local authorities' investigations.

'We will continue to make sure our computer forensics investigators are highly trained and have the best hardware and software in their lab to do their jobs well, and we'll keep providing our expertise, free of charge, to any law enforcement agency in South Dakota,' Gov. Bill Janklow said in a statement.

The Minnehaha County Sheriff's Office will share in the grant, Janklow said.

The state ICAC unit has opened more than 150 investigations, searched 91 computers and assisted in 18 arrests, the statement said.

Opportunity. The Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service has established the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program to provide grants for enhanced learning and health care opportunities for rural communities. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/rus/telecom/dlt/dlt.htm.

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