A Diebold CEO and a King get sidelined

Diebold reveals vast left-wing conspiracy: When Diebold Chief Executive Officer Bob Urosevich was in town last week to defend his electronic voting machines’ performance in the March election, he generously took a few moments each day to fill Bites in on the action. Urosevich, a dead ringer for Pat Buchanan, spent two days being grilled by a panel formed by California’s secretary of state; panel members were none too pleased with Diebold’s use of uncertified software and election-day malfunctions that delayed the voting process at some polling places.

Sure, Urosevich winced a little when Bites first asked him about his chairman’s famed promise to deliver as many votes to George Bush as possible. (Note to electronic-voting magnates: This is not the first thing you want to say when your company makes equipment that conceivably could do just that.)

“It was obviously taken out of context,” said Urosevich of his boss’ famed pledge, which was given at a Republican fund-raiser. “The chairman of our board obviously has, though the years, donated to political parties. But, you know, I’m a Democrat, and that obviously doesn’t affect how the system operates. It’s very nonpartisan.”

Urosevich assured Bites that he’s been a lifelong Democrat, so there’s really nothing to worry about. But it was Urosevich himself who was looking worried the following day, when Bites ran into him pacing back and forth along O Street in front of the secretary of state’s office building, a cell phone clutched to his ear. Less than an hour earlier, the committee had voted not only to recommend decertifying a number of Diebold machines, but also to refer its report to the attorney general for possible criminal or civil charges. On the East Coast, Diebold stock was falling in the day’s closing hours. Urosevich was not a happy man.

Still, he put his best face forward when Bites approached him for his response to the decision. “We have 17 other counties in the state that do have systems which aren’t affected by this,” he reasoned. “We’re in the business to be in business. We will be contacting the counties and moving forward with them.”

It’s that uncanny ability to look on the bright side that endeared Urosevich to the panel during its two-day hearing. “We’re sorry for the inconvenience it caused voters,” he said of his machines’ malfunctions, but he immediately noted that “it was remedied, and precincts were opened up within 15 minutes to a two-hour period of time.” But when panel member Tony Miller responded that voters were “more than inconvenienced, but actually disenfranchised,” the normally loquacious Urosevich merely answered, “Yes, sir.”

Urosevich also looked crestfallen when Bites asked about the referral to the attorney general’s office. “I don’t have any comment on that,” he said, beginning to walk away. Bites accepted the unspoken invitation to tag along. Does the lifelong Democrat have any predictions on John Kerry’s chances this year? “I don’t make them,” muttered Urosevich as he returned to the hearing room.

King for a day: While Sacramento cheers on the Kings through the playoffs, one spectator is viewing the action with somewhat mixed feelings. Tony Massenburg is still coming to grips with the Kings’ decision to leave him off the team’s playoff roster.

“The Kings need the same thing they’ve needed for the last three years, a defensive presence in the middle. That’s what I was brought in to do, and that’s what I did,” said Massenburg, whose hard-nosed style in the power-forward and center positions was matched by his candid critique of the team during radio interviews. “The situation just took an ugly turn. This is what happens when people decide they don’t like you anymore. It’s unfair, but that’s the way the world is.”

Massenburg should know, having played for 12 teams since joining the NBA in 1990. “This isn’t a league that’s physical anymore,” he told Bites. “In this day and age, everybody’s looking for the next franchise player. … If you’re young or European with size, people will wait for you to develop.”

As for Massenburg, lucky team 13 may be just around the corner. “I’ll be back somewhere,” he said. “My agent is going to get to work on that right after the season ends.”