WH denies that Kundra lied about his background

Vivek Kundra got off to a rocky start as Barack Obama’s appointee for the position of Chief Information Officer in the new administration.  First, his offices got raided in a bribery sting involving an underling, and a few days later I reported on Kundra’s conviction for shoplifting shirts from a Penney’s twelve years earlier.  Those storms receded, however, and Kundra returned to work after a short hiatus and a series of embarrassed explanations from the White House.  Since then, Kundra has not caused any sort of public controversy.

Today, though, Kundra’s name has arisen again, with questions about his honesty regarding his resume.  John Dvorak, who writes columns for Dow Jones and PC Magazine, tried verifying Kundra’s education background, which included an advanced degree from the University of Maryland and employment there as an instructor.  Dvorak says records don’t substantiate those claims.  The White House vehemently denies it, however, and another source says Dvorak got it wrong:

This is the sort of question you might ask after trying to actually verify his supposed MS in Information Technology from the University of Maryland, College Park campus. The registrar has no record of it. In fact the current University of Maryland grad department doesn’t even show this degree as being commonly available to anyone. A search of his college records shows no attendance after he received his BS degree in Psychology on 12/20/98. In fact his last day of school 12/19/98 wrapped up the six years it took Kundra to obtain his undergraduate degree. …

Most revealing is a bio of Kundra that was redacted from the Washington, DC municipal site. Luckily it was archived by the web sweeper Archive.org. In that bio Kundra added even more icing to his University of Maryland career saying he “served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland, teaching classes on emerging and disruptive technologies.”

Calls to the University said there was no such teacher at the school. It’s now difficult to find this attribution as it may have drawn too much attention to the actual facts. He pulled it. …

The most ridiculous is his assertion that he was formerly a CEO of Creostar. While records for this company are hard to come by a small Dun & Bradstreet service did turn up the following information: there was indeed a Creostar in Arlington, VA. It was founded in 2004 with the contact being Vivek Kundra. The last record for the company (online) showed sales of $67,000 with one employee – apparently Kundra, the CEO.

Normally, that would sound pretty far-fetched, but given the confusion over Kundra’s conviction, it sounded plausible.  After reading Dvorak’s article, I contacted the White House for comment.  Kenneth Baer, spokesman for the OMB, quickly responded with this statement:

This is a total fabrication and gross distortion of Vivek Kundra’s record. Vivek received his Master’s degree from the University of Maryland-University College, worked in the private sector, and had a distinguished career as a public servant before joining the Obama Administration.

I also asked whether Kundra had taught at UM, and Baer replied, “Yes. Univ. of MD – UNIVERSITY COLLEGE.”  He also included this link to Nextgov.com’s Gautham Nagesh, who followed up on Dvorak’s article:

Dvorak alleges that federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra has been lying about his academic record, specifically that Kundra did not receive a Master’s in Information Technology from University of Maryland as he claims. Dvorak bases this allegation on a search of the UMD registrar’s database, which confirms Kundra was a student until 1998 but doesn’t mention any graduate program. He goes on to say, “In fact the current University of Maryland grad department doesn’t even show this degree as being commonly available to anyone.”

That’s somewhat correct, since the University of Maryland, College Park does not offer any such degree. However, after a few phone calls I was able to verify that Kundra did receive a Master’s degree in Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland University College in 2001. That seems to conform with his official bio, where it states he “holds a MS in Information Technology from the University of Maryland.”

GigaOm confirms this:

Chip Cassano, a University of Maryland University College spokesman, confirmed that Kundra graduated from the school with a Masters of Science in Information Systems Management. There are several other issues — you are better off reading the entire article. …

Dvorak is just flat-out wrong — or at least that was the gist of the conversation I just had with Kundra. He called back and said that it was clear that “someone was spinning partial truths.” He welcomed anyone to check with University of Maryland’s University College and said they will find that not only did he graduate from the University College, but also that he was adjunct faculty member. He was an undergraduate at the University of Maryland’s College Park location. That confusion is reflected on Kundra’s Wikipedia bio. As noted above, we checked with the UMUC and they told us that Kundra did indeed graduate in 2001 with an MS in information Systems Management. When I asked Kundra about his startup, Creostar, he said he never claimed it to be a billion-dollar company. He started it before getting a gig with the Commonwealth of Virginia.

It appears that the issue arose from a confusion between UMCP and UMUC.  Whatever else Kundra appears to have done, he apparently told the truth about his education and his employment.