Council Faces Huge Bill for IT Glitch. Maybe They Should Just Dial Jesus for Technical Help.

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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The Dallas city council today is locked in a dispute today over paying a contractor $8.3 million to help City Manager Mary Suhm straighten out a huge mess with the city's computerized billing system. Unable to resolve it this morning, they will come back to the question this afternoon. Watch if you dare.

A Steve Thompson story in The Dallas Morning News this morning reports that Suhm wants to ditch a billing system on which she has squandered $26 million so far and turn operations over to a private provider instead. The original item on today's council agenda says, "[It] has become increasingly apparent that recruiting and retaining the right IT resources and skill sets for support has proven very difficult for the city."

Oh, my. Now there is an understatement. The city's information technology department has gone through about 10 generations of incompetence, including the most recent chapter in which the city tried to assemble a hot IT staff by hiring a bunch of people who had no IT experience but all attended the same church.

Somewhere in the bowels of City Hall, somebody has a checklist called "Ideas for recruiting good IT" with a big X over idea No. 17, "Religion."

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Photo by Sam Merten
Mary Suhm
In Thompson's story, Suhm kvetches about not being able to pay people enough money to keep them. On the one hand, that's probably true. On the other hand, it doesn't seem like it should cost that much to hold on to totally incompetent but very religious people.

But stop. Wait a minute. This brings us to an interesting seam in the narrative. Does it mean that government is just bad and private enterprise is just good? OK, this discussion requires me to say some stuff that really sticks in my throat, because all I do is bitch about City Hall for a living, but I'll do it anyway.

The fact is that City Hall recruits a good number of people who are very good at what they do, who have skill sets that are essential to protecting and promoting the public interest -- skills not commonly found in the private sector. Why does that stick in my craw? Oh, just because I'm on the other side of a bunch of specific issues with these folks a lot of the time.

But you take somebody like Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan -- damn, this is hard to say -- who came to City Hall from the nonprofit world. I don't know how long she has been there -- at least 15 years. Jordan is extremely good at handling and brokering contending interests in the kind of tough but congenial way it's got to be done in government.

I could talk about Theresa O'Donnell, director of the city's Department of Helping Developers (not its real name). I'm always way on the other side of issues from her, but I also have great respect for her ability to do what she does.

Take Suhm, for that matter. I have known her for a long time. She worked her way up at City Hall. She's very smart. But here's the secret to Mary Suhm: She thinks City Hall is challenging, fun, worthwhile. And that's what you have to have in the key governmental posts. You need people who don't just believe in what they are doing, but love it. Some days.

If anything, when I think of all the people I have met over the years at Dallas City Hall who are engaged in truly governmental functions, I have the impression that the vast majority of them are extremely competent, probably at a level of competence vis a vis their stated duties that is at least equivalent and sometimes quite a bit higher than the competence of people I run into in the private sector. It's a matter of what they are tasked to do.

I don't think you want people in government posts doing the IT any more than you want them producing the beef for the cafeteria. A certain parsing of the basic activities is necessary, a splitting of the sheets between truly governmental functions and truly not governmental functions. If you can get that right, you can get the people right.

In Thompson's story, Jordan is quoted expressing what I guess might be Idea No. 18 on my imaginary bucket list for fixing IT: "We are following the HR rules now," she says.

Guess what? Sounds like they had to draw a big X on that one too. Jordan basically says since they started following the human resources rules -- i.e. not hiring people just because they belong to some church -- now they really can't recruit anybody for IT. That's why they want to go to an outside provider.

That's what got me thinking about all this. You know, every industry and agency has HR rules, mainly because of litigation. But HR is never how you hire anybody good. Somebody smart in the organization -- I mean smart about a task or operation, not a rocket scientist -- knows somebody smart outside the organization.

A contact is made, feelers extended. Somebody goes to lunch. There's another look-see meeting. References are checked way on the back channel because you can't legally do references on the formal channel any more. Terms are negotiated. Then whoever is the thumbs-up person gives the thumbs-up.

And then they tell the new recruit, "You got the job. Now go to HR and apply for the job."

It's all about people who are good at government knowing other people who would be good at government. They have bumped into each other in the world and crossed swords, so they have been able to take each others' measures.

People who are good at government do not know people who would be good at IT any more than a bunch of EMOs would be able to recruit people good at clogging. If they did accidentally stumble onto some good IT persons at a kids' soccer game, they couldn't pay them enough to keep them. And anyway, the good IT people would be too uncomfortable working with whoever is left from the Christian IT experiment.

But that doesn't mean government is bad. Government is good. At governing. It's bad at IT.

Now, our particular form of government is deficient in many ways. We have the weak city council, weak mayor, weak city manager system, or, as political scientists might call it, the weak-weak-weak system of municipal governance. Sometimes it's the buck-stops-nowhere system. Sometimes it's the what-buck-I-ain't-got-no-buck system.

And this is not Suhm's finest moment. This afternoon the council may have to vote on whether or not to write a big check for an outside consultant to come in and take over IT. Some council members said this morning they felt blindsided by the whole deal and wanted the question put off for 30 days. Suhm told them they had to pull the trigger right now.

It would be easy to look at all this and throw up our hands or just throw up. In fact, let's do that. But let's first remember that a given situation is not a universal truth about government.

OK, fingers down throats, all. Here we go -- the Dallas City Hall cheer!

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Cantkeepmequiet
Cantkeepmequiet

The truth needs to be told.   The water billing system is being run by the Assistant Director of Dallas Water Utilities who does the bidding of Jody Puckett.   The City SAP team was recruited with many individuals with SAP experience wanting to come off the road or just looking for the latest greatest challenge.   This talented group of individuals have since left the City most to working for large consulting firms and multi-billion dollar organizations with true leadership that know what it takes to run a business.  Many left for salaries 30K over what the City of Dallas was paying.   Also working for a department such as DWU who has no idea of how to manage technology was a joke.  Secret meetings between Axon and DWU were held to talk about future projects and proposals for outsourcing.  Anyone who got in the way of the Axon/DWU agenda was dealt with swiftly and harshly.  All hands meetings were held to tell confirm what City employees already knew their jobs would be outsourced.   Originally the plan was to extend the Axon contract for 24 months and not 20 but they changed their minds, one can only imagine that price tag. These are the individuals who stayed up during the night to fix system issues as they arose not the Axon resources who bill at the rate of $300,000 but the City analysts at rates of $75 to $80K per year.   Axon contractors are privy to City planning sessions for future projects while their competitors sit on the outside only hopeful they can have that type of face time with Jody Puckett, who funds the SAP team, and that is why water rates keep rising not because of the drought.  Axon contractors are brought in with there being no work for them to do because DWU wants them there.  The City was able to run the system without the help of Axon, but DWU would not have that. I wonder whose pockets are being lined?   There are valid contracts in place to pull SAP configuration and development resources from at the rate of $60 per hour verses Axon’s $169.  How can the City justify this Axon price tag because someone is paying to play.  Axon has been primed by DWU for the extension, and ultimately support of SAP.  Once the federal authorities are brought in to review the “City’s Play to Pay” Jody Puckett, Bill Finch and a whole cast of players will be shown the door along with Axon’s sorry behinds.  

Formula 1
Formula 1

cantkeepmequiet is telling the truth. Everything in this post is accurate. One important member of this city hall mafia was inadvertently missing in this story. That would be Mike Frosch, Director of the Purchasing Department. The same Mike Frosch who was very quietly moved into the Director's position without a college degree. His current wife was his employee before he became Assistant Director of the Purchasing Department. When the relationship was finally "exposed" she received a big fat promotion and salary increase when she was moved out of the Purchasing Department and to a new department where she still works. And which department is that??? Why, of course, it is the Dallas Water Utilities Department!!!!

Mrs. Frosh isn't the sharpest tool in the box my any means but she runs around in her tight clothes, pretending to look and be important and reminding all that she is married to Mike Frosch. She receives accolades and recognition from Jody Puckett for being nothing more than the wife of the Purchasing Director who can help grease the wheels for whatever scam Jody wishes to push through. It's about time that Jody be exposed. Perfect timing so she and Mary Nix can go down together.

Hopefully, council members will call for a external investigation.

TruthBeTold
TruthBeTold

Dear Council Members Hunt & Griggs:Since it appears that you two are the only council members who bother to study the agenda and supporting materials in detail, please note the following. In this story, Jill Jordan is quoted as saying that hiring procedures are now being followed. That is not a correct statement and since you two are refusing to drink that Council Member Hill is now pouring on behalf of Mary Suhm, please ask Mary Suhm why the Mike Frosh and the Assistant Director were hired without the positions being posted and interviews conducted. Most importantly of all, how did Frosch qualify for the job with only a high school diploma. That is correct. No college degree. Why was this appointment not announced like all other executive appointments via memo to council? Answer: Friend of Mary (FOM)

How was Molly McColl appointed Human Resources Director with a Marketing degree, no previous HR experience and no supervisory experience at the City until she was made Assistant Director in HR. Again, no job posted, no interviews conducted and no announcement via memo to council. Answer: Friend of Mary

How was Kris Sweckard made Managing Director of Management Services as part of a fake process 2 years ago to reduce the number of executives during budget reduction process allowed to keep his Director's salary? And why is he allowed to add positions when he's no more than a clerk and paper pusher for the gas drilling process since he can't handle conflict?Answer: Friend of Mary

Friend of Mary's have one thing in common besides their race. Supreme ass kissers who only tell Mary (and council via Mary's orders) what she wants to hear. That's why this cityIIs screwed. This is the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty more examples as FOMs are planted throughout the organization.

Today we still read about the collapse and screw ups on IT Department. Tomorrow it will be about the departments listed above. Mark my words.

Anonymous Too
Anonymous Too

This situation is a symtpm of the illness of lack of sufficient funds to run the city whether the economy is good or bad. A few years ago the Council voted a tiny tax decrease so they could say they lowered taxes. The total impact of this decrease per family was probably $2 per annum. There is so little money left after police and fire get their share that nothing is left for replacing outdated equipment and technology so they get patched and patched until they finally give up and break down. Then you get comments from people vilifying city workers who are trying to do the best they can under hiring freezes, decreases in pay and no hope for raises.

Cantkeepmequiet
Cantkeepmequiet

Anonymous Too the Axon contract rates are expensive well over and above what the City was paying for permanent employees.  Those millions of dollars to pay for Axon would have been nothing in relation to a market level increase for knowledgable City SAP staff.  There was money there is money Jody Puckett's money...oh I mean the Citizens of Dallas money.  Someone needs to let Mary, Jody, and company know that is NOT their money but the citizen's of Dallas.  $8.3 million would go a long way to replace aged equipment.  SAP is totally funded by DWU and they let that be known. It is not funded by the general fund like public safety.  Thus our beautiful water rate increase.  

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

I like to read today in DMN where both Hunt and Griggs pulled this item out of the consent agenda and forced Mary to admit to being a weasel. Since only Suhm and Rawlings control the agenda, a pox on both of them for trying to slip it in.Then Hill gets all romantic with Suhm and tells her that she would have voted the way Mary wanted it to go in first place. What's up with that? Are they lovers?

Formula 1
Formula 1

@ Grumpy Demo & @ Retired -- your comments are very accurate. Staff complained about Worris Levine within weeks of his arrival. Employees sent an aonymous letter to Suhm's home because they knew the Human Resources Generalist and the HR Director at the time would cover for Levine. Suhm got someone from her clique to conduct a faux investigation and interview a select group of employees. They were no seeking the truth in these interviews. It was obvious they were trying to figure out who was part of the group that sent the letter to Suhm. At the end of the investigation, Levine conducted another one of his all employee meetings/sermons to basically tell staff to get out before I take you out. It was his warning shot. Sure enough, one by one he marked his target, ran employees out and replaced them with his church people and promoted some very incompetent staff from within. These staff members had no previous experience as supervisors yet they were made managers. The biggest joke had to be the promotion of an office clerk who ran - and still runs her personal business from her desk - to a Safety Manager position. When the department blows up in flames, Suhm can't say she was not warned. Just like she was warned in the letter she received at her home shortly after Levine arrived.

What's even more frightening is Levine buying the silence and allegiance of the current Interim CIO who has been the bridesmaid and never the bride throughout the numerous firings of CIOs. Levine made him Deputy CIO during a time when the minions were not receiving raises because of the salary freeze.

Bill Finch and the unqualified employees who received promotions were lining their pockets while everyone else stood by and watched in disgust. Now Suhm and Jill Jordan complain about turnover??? People were disgusted and quit or were run off by Levine with Finch's blessing.

Why hasn't anyone followed up on the results of the idiotic committee that was formed after Levine's church member recruiting was exposed? Some members of the committee will tell you that it was a PR stunt and joke. It resulted in no real change. Levine's secretary who is a temporary and member of his church was not escorted to the exit as she was protected by Robbie Porter-Wooten, an Assistant Director who remains a loyal Levine supporter. Finch, too, remains loyal to Levine. Actually, Suhm remains loyal to Levine and is too proud to admit she's highly incompetent when it comes to hiring. That's why Levine remains on the city's payroll and is sitting on the fourth floor playing on his computer all day searching for a new identity as he job hunts along with another ousted Director (Aviation Dept). Any other minion who was not hired by Suhm or is not a member of "Friends of Mary" club would have been demoted or terminated. Those poor souls don't stand a chance in the faux appeal process because the system is set up to protect and confirm the department's decision.

Glad to see the mess in CIS AND the Water Department exposed. Dallas Observer, keep chipping away. You are on the verge of exposing Jody Puckett and how she runs that Water Delartment. Those water rates have been climbing for the last few years and projected to continue to climb for the next five years. The reasons why should be exposed.

It's about time Jody Puckett is exposed. After all, how good can her judgment really be given the fact that she is responsible for hiring Mary Nix in the Sanitation Dept and they remain joined at the hip. joined at the hip.

RTGolden
RTGolden

I'm not familiar with all those names and convoluted goings on in your post, but I might be able to help you with the water rates thing.  There's this concept of supply and demand.  A drought means your water supply is quickly dwindling.  We've been in one for some time now.  Our esteemed leadership, and those citizens who love their water-needy lawns, have, until now refused to restrict water usage.  Our population is growing.  Ergo, demand is growing, supply is diminishing.  That equals higher water rates.

Formula 1
Formula 1

@RTGolden---you are wrong. Sorry you wasted your time, fingers and mind posting your response. You really are clueless! Jody Puckett is the "mastermind" behind the water rates and sanitation rates (she used to be Director of Sanitation Services). A decent external auditor who cannot be influenced by city hall politics and Puckett's bullying will see right through the manipulation of numbers and her idiotic "fee model." The closest it came to being exposed was during Mayor Leppert's last budget season. He came very close to sniffing out what was going on. He asked good questions and requested detailed information which Suhm and Puckett glossed over. He was too busy working on his senatorial bid and his questions were way over the heads of most council members so the truth was never exposed.

No.... It's not about the drought. It's not about water conservation. It's about the Water Department being treated as the cash cow. They are an enterprise fund department. They have a blank check to do whatever they want to do. As they are so proud of city hall, all of their expenses can be "hidden in the rate." By rate, they mean the water rates that we as consumers pay.

Where do all of the employees who the City Manager wants to rid herself of end up? Where do employees whose positions are eliminated during the budget cutting process go to make it look like not many employees ended up being laid off? Who spends more on consultants than any other department? Who hires former city employees as consultants? Who spends huge amounts of money on supplies, computers, printers, furniture, catering services/food when no other general fund department is allowed to do so? Who had the highest number of executives in their department? Who has the largest number of "take home" city vehicles? Who has the newest, fanciest and speciality decorated fleet in their department? Who is allowed to give "in grade" promotions (salary and job promotions) to their staff when no other general fund departments are allowed to do UNLESS it is for one of Mary Suhm or Forrest Turner's friends? THE WATER DEPARTMENT AND JODY PUCKETT.

Enough said.

Retired
Retired

At the time Ms. Schum hired Mr. Worris the IT department had gone through 4 directors, Mr. Worris making the fifth in 5 years.  Many of the the IT professionals working in the department at that time feared that Mr. Worris was brought in to get rid of the long term employees, and he did by many means.  He was not on the job 6 months when the first investigation was swept under the rug as was additional complaints.  The long term employees had an investment in the city, all the temps and friends Mr. Worris  hired did not have the same. 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

I would have thought Perot Systems would have a lock on this.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

As I said in a previous post: “Be afraid Dallas be afraid”.   This is just ANOTHER example of the city of Dallas FAILING.  Be it white water rafting in the Trinity, bike lanes, neighborhood markets, billing for water or alarm permits, libraries, parks down town parking and a drive to close as many long established businesses as possible.  The list is mind numbing of incompetence.  Nothing works in local government.  Their eyes are on tax payer hotels, arts district parks (now that will be interesting with the phase I water restrictions), suspension bridges and Trinity Toll road.  Every step of the way incompetence. The leadership (or lack of it) have conned themselves with a video (latest DO news item) about how they have what it takes.    The city staff and council should have cages a the zoo.  Ah but I forgot there is nothing here that more tax dollars will not solve (or so they tell us as they hit us up for more monies).  What a joke! And it is on us the citizens and tax payers.

RTGolden
RTGolden

It's a good thing we put so much DISD money into that S&T magnet school.

I'll bet you could give this problem to one of their computer science classes and get it sorted out in no time.  In fact there is a school district in California that is using computer science students as IT personnel already, and they're doing a damn good job of it.  They're also learning the facets of the job you can't learn in the classroom: customer service interaction, the importance of keeping maintenance histories, coping with intransigent customers, and real-time critical thinking and analysis of problems.

Of course, that is a small time CA school district, not some world class, major metropolitan, consultant guided district like.... ours.

TheTruth
TheTruth

But that doesn't mean government is bad. Government is good. At governing. It's bad at IT.Wrong, government is good at governing in their own best interest out of greed, and for their own personal gain, at the expense of the people in need, taxpayers etc.......Here is a perfect example:http://www.chron.com/news/hous... 

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Love all the racist yobs posting its the minorities fault.

Attention fellow white trash trailer park rejects, DARK SKINNED PEOPLE DIDN'T SCREW UP THE CITY'S ACCOUNTING SYSTEM.

Now, please go back to bitching about Obam being a secret Kenyan Marxist Muslim who's only president because of affirmative action.

Nice reminder there's was a reason Dallas had the reputation as the City of Hate.

Honey Badger
Honey Badger

Please point out to me what exactly is racist other than the city's hiring policies.  I am telling you, based on her history and what I've heard directly from city employees, Suhm's primary qualifications/requirements for most of her positions are race, gender, and ethnicity.  She determines what the race/gender make up of a position should be before she interviews candidates!  If that's not racism, I don't know what is.       

SteveT
SteveT

The city pay scale is not that low compared to the private sector (the state of Texas is), especially when you consider the good benefits.  However, the HR process is far more constrained and rigorous in government because it's not just a few people's money; it's the public's money (in Dallas, that's over one million people).  So, it's crucial to hire the best people but to also focus on diversity, to reflect the city.  In other words, efficiency is not the highest priority, in either hiring, completing tasks, or even contracting work to private firms.  This is a societal value. 

Given all this, it is puzzling that IT has had a string of department directors that have not followed the rules; that's partly why it is such a mess.

Mickeygil1
Mickeygil1

SteveT, What good benefits:Employee and family insurance (spouse or life partner and kids) 600.00 a month insurance pays nothing until each person has reached a $3000.00 deductible then it pays 70%   $9000. between at least 3 family members.  Oh and  no $20.00 - $30.00 co-pays 30% of the doctor bill once deduct. is met.  City owned insurance = good benefits wake up 

Mary is paid over $250,000 a year probably doesn't put that much of a dent in her paycheck, sure is a lot for a Firefighter/Paramedic or Police Officer and I sure know it is  for any other city worker 

Anon
Anon

In IT the City scale, for the people who actually do the work, is way below the private sector.  People who know what they're doing with SAP software (which is what the City bought) can make a hell of a lot more in the private sector.

Honey Badger
Honey Badger

So the role of government is to directly mirror the racial profile and intelligence level of a city?  Care to explain why the City of Dallas has a disproportionate number of minorities, then?

Honey Badger
Honey Badger

Jim,

Have you ever considered that you are interacting with a very small minority of city employees and only at the leadership level?  You cited a CM, ACM, and a director in your article, but what about the hundreds and thousands of incompetent ADs, managers, and grunts that work in the city?  

Like someone mentioned below, the hiring decisions are predetermined, and they're normally right along the lines of diversity.  Take a look at the CMO.  When Charles Daniels quit, he was replaced by another black man, Chief Brown, on an interim basis and then by Forest Turner.  Joey Zapata fills the spot vacated by Ramon Miguez.  This principle trickles all the way down to director and AD decisions.  The idea that promotions or hiring at the city is merit based in any way is completely and totally laughable.  They all get put in place because they are "Friends of Mary".  Think of Suhm as a puppet master that has her fingers in every personnel decision in the city.

Mary Suhm is 100% accountable for this IT debacle and she should be held accountable for it. 

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Jim, you Old Fart it 2011 there's nothing magical about IT for gawd sakes. This isn't 1973.  A billing system is about a simple vanilla system as you can get.

 The real problem is that Dallas accounting procedures are funked up big time remember? How many auditors have quit or been run off for reporting this mess. A professional functioning accounting system would indicate responsibility and make Shum and her lap dogs accountable. At one time the City couldn't track where 25% of it water was going.

The problems is due to incompetence of the City Manager, not the super magical challenge of computers.

IT isn't that hard anymore, they can't recruit people because no IT professional wants a job where their Boss' used to work in the sewer department and got the job because they were a loyal Shum ass kisser and are clueless. Who would want to work in a Fail Factory where you're co-workers/boss don't even have to have the elementary knowledge or basic competency required to do the job?

It's the same reason Dallas can't fix its road, its parks are neglected weed lots, and Policeman are arrested on a near daily basis. The incompetence of the unaccountable government at City Hall is a feature of the City Manager form of Government, not a bug.

Who care's that an incompetent loves their work? They still do crappy work. Shum has left a trail of bodies of dedicated competent people at City Hall who's only fault was the spoke the truth to her, when she only wants servile obedience.

Guesty McG
Guesty McG

"IT isn't that hard anymore...."

That's a silly statement.  A technology project can either be easy or it can be difficult.

You have, however, come to a correct conclusion, thought the problem is not in any way unique to city government.

There is a subset of the population that is truly capable of building and operating computer systems, just as there is a subset that can run fast, or jump high, or paint, or draw, or whatever.  However, most management is unable to properly differentiate one "resource" from another.

There are a few companies who realize that rather than hiring 40 people and paying them each X dollars to paint by number, you should hire eight quality people and pay them each, say, 2.5 X.  The 8-person shop is more effective in just about every way.  Unfortunately, most managers and HR departments don't get this because it's not the way they were taught.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

It just a simple billing program something the cities and companies have been doing for more than two decades and most without any problems.

Welcome the the Twenty First Century Rip Van Winkel.

Anonymous Too
Anonymous Too

Every year there is a designated and inadequate amount of money the city has to do business.Tax increases are anathema to the Council. Pay grades in almost every department are below the market value. Once people are hired they have no confidence they will ever get a raise. In fact City employees have received cuts in salary across the board as well as furlough days. Health costs continue to rise. This is not a climate for excellence.

Heywood U buzzoff
Heywood U buzzoff

I know a senior IT person with a ton of experience who interviewed three times with the City of Dallas.  Things went great until HR tried to classify her as a IT Clerk Level II at a yearly pay rate that should have been the monthly rate.  Meanwhile that lady's sister in law with two years of experience was hired for a management job that paid twice the IT job.

Suhm wanting the council to pull the trigger now means the fix is in and the big losers are the residents of Dallas.

PhilanderingMoustache
PhilanderingMoustache

Jim, the system you describe is exactly how things are done now.  People are vetted before they even apply to positions, or they are placed in the positions as a "double fill" or interim basis...for a year or two.  Then they open the position online, a bunch of people apply, they set up the multi-cultural interview panel, and the incumbent is one of three candidates chosen to interview.  Guess who's going to get the job?  Of course it will be the incumbent; other people don't stand a chance.  They have the experience already...on the job training that they received because they were placed in the position by "the powers that be" in the first place.  I am a very good friend to a current city employee, and he has reached the consensus that any future job he gets will not be because of merit, but because of "special projects" or any extracurricular ass-kissing that he wants to engage in.

Southernsector
Southernsector

The manager has inoculated many council members against outsourcing. Make an outsourcing proposal and you are immediately told that the city tried it once and it didn't work or that someone wants to "make money off of the city."  The city could save a great deal of money with a properly managed outsourcing program but I can tell you from experience the council and staff have been brainwashed into opposing most ideas either directly or through passive resistance.  

Randy S
Randy S

...and things that DO get outsourced go to an unqualified sister-in-laws/cousins/brothers/aunties/pastors/etc. of someone at the City.

RTGolden
RTGolden

She paid $26mill so far on this computerized billing system, and didn't check if that sum included 24hr on-call physical tech support?  For $26million dollars, I better get a pimpled out, buck-toothed, four-eyed whiz kid in the package.  I'll even throw in a copy of SKYRIM for him/her to play when they're not un-fucking the computers.And how is Suhm good at city management again?

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Govt/private is not the real issue.  You could have good outcomes either way.  The problem is, you need an IT liaison/chief at City Hall who is solid on technical skills, solid on project management, and solid on City Hall procedures.  That's going to be a pretty special person.

Observist
Observist

And they have to be willing to work for a mediocre city gov't salary.

sizzler
sizzler

and crappy outdated technology

Amy S.
Amy S.

Part of me wonders if this isn't a problem with Garbage In/Garbage Out. We received a late notice that our annual license was unpaid - 6 months after it was due. The problem was the check had been cashed two weeks before the due date. So somewhere the ball was dropped as far as the payment posting. This could be construed as an accounting issue, not just IT.

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

We go through the same thing twice a year.  The City calls to say they can't issue the certificates until they are paid.  We tell them when they deposited the check.  They research and come back two days later to tell us we were right.

And that is separate from the annual Security Alarm Billings which may or may not be billed annually.

Anonymous
Anonymous

These sort of projects are failures because their success is dependent upon a high-level of competency, and, in general, people that work for the government are incompetent.  Long hours, hard work, and accountability for success or failure (three things typically not associated with government jobs) are also required for these sort of projects to be successful.  All of this culminates into these sort of projects being doomed from the get-go.  Of course, there are exceptions to this generalization and I know there are talented, hardworking people employed by the government, as Jim indicated.      

The way government entities such as Dallas select contractors and solution providers is flawed too.  Whether or not a company bidding for business is a Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) and successful in adhering to the hundreds of pages of bureaucratic paperwork required to submit a bid takes precedent over the bidder's ability to actually deliver a successful project. Conversely, competent bidders are eliminated because they forgot to check a box on page 203, paragraph 7, article 4.6 of the response packet that the bureaucrats wasted way too much tax-payers dollars creating in the first place.

Anyway, I digress...

Randy S
Randy S

These generalizations that "government employees are losers" are getting tiresome. Sure, there are some people who work in government that aren't the best. There are also a LOT of people who work in the private sector who are just as bad. 

I really feel sorry for people with government jobs having to put up with asinine comments by people who probably don't have a clue about how incompetent they are. Yet our water keeps running, our trash keeps getting picked up, our fires keep getting put out, etc. 

Observist
Observist

So in your 2nd paragraph you're saying competent bidders bid incompetently, but incompetent bidders bid competently?   Because the incompetent bidders are good at taking care of a bunch of little details - a competency not required in IT, because, you know, IT doesn't involve a bunch of little details.

Anonymous
Anonymous

That's not what I'm "saying" in the second paragraph.  When I write "competency", what I mean is competency to deliver a successful project, which should be more important selection criteria than being HUD-owned, or other poor-decision criteria governments use for selecting solution providers.  

What's your actual point, though?  Is there nothing flawed with wasting millions in tax payer dollars? 

I assume you're situation in life is one that benefits as a government employee or government solution provider under the current status-quo.  

Believe me, I have no dog in this fight above-and-beyond being a tax-payer.  I'm certain you do have a dog in this fight.    

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

"government employees are losers"

Yeah right, just look at these examples, all government workers:

George WashingtonAbraham LincolnTeddy RooseveltHarry S. TrumanDwight EisenhowerChuck YeagerEvery NY Fireman and Policeman that died on 9-11

Lets not forget five day government employee, Daniel Hernandez:

"The junior at the University of Arizona was helping check people in at the "Congress on Your Corner" event when he heard gunfire. He was about 30 feet from the congresswoman. When the shots began, he ran toward them.

When the shots began that morning, he saw many people lying on the ground, including a young girl. Some were bleeding. Hernandez said he moved from person to person checking pulses.

"First the neck, then the wrist," he said. One man was already dead. Then he saw Giffords. She had fallen and was lying contorted on the sidewalk. She was bleeding.

Using his hand, Hernandez applied pressure to the entry wound on her forehead. He pulled her into his lap, holding her upright against him so she wouldn't choke on her own blood."

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/.../2011/01/09/20110109daniel-hernandez-gabrielle-giffords-arizona-shooting.html#ixzz1gY98zFOt

Yeah a bunch of losers.

LH Dad
LH Dad

Jim: That was your worst story of all time. Were you trying to tell us that Mary Suhm is a horrible manager who loves her job or that IT is just too hard for a City Manager in any form of government? I agree that Suhm is a terrible manager and I do not care that she likes her job; IT management is just not that difficult and the City does have enough normal HR cash to hire these people.

JimS
JimS

Worst story of all time? You have not been keeping up with me over the years.

LH Dad
LH Dad

That was overly harsh as I really do enjoy your column. And yes, I have been reading your columns and this was not up to your usual standards. Seriously.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

$8.3 million here, $26 million here for IT, $15 million(Army Corps) and that's what we know.So Jim. in other words.........................

FIRE MARY SUHM NOW, 'cause we can't afford to keep her.

richard schumacher
richard schumacher

The thing is, if you fire Suhm, whom do you hire to be manager?  Who would take the job?  Another one of the Sanctified Brethren, or whatever cult that was?

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Give or take a $100 million.

DM
DM

You mean a Billion or two, given the Federal Housing Fraud against low income people. 

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