2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Mayor asking for $2 million to rebuild IT network

Published: June 23, 2014, 6:07 pm, by Monica Mendoza

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach wants to abandon $2 million in budgeted capital improvement projects in favor of pumping the money into the city’s Information Technology department, which has had a rocky few months with an internal investigation, its chief leaving and 10 employees’ positions outsourced.

The council will consider the request Tuesday at its regular meeting.

The request comes on the heels of Bach saying the city has more than $1 billion in capital needs and no money to pay for them. Bach has floated a possible sales tax increase or bond debt to help pay for a variety of capital projects from roads to flood control.

He is asking the council to abandon a road repaving project on Academy Boulevard, a court management system, a facilities maintenance prioritization project, a capital improvement projects study and an enterprise land information system. Those projects total $2 million and were approved in the 2014 budget.

Chief of Staff Steve Cox said all of the capital improvements still are important. But the IT department is in need of remediation.

“We have to rebuild our network,” he said.

Cox would not comment on whether the needed work in IT was related to the internal investigation into the IT department in January. In April, the chief of IT Joe Palmer stepped down. According to records he was not paid a severance.

Palmer, who had been on the job for one year and four months, was first put on paid administrative leave just before stepping down. At the time, Bach said it was a personnel issue and he could not discuss the details.

The IT department has been in turmoil for months. In October during the budget season, Palmer announced that nine positions in the department would be outsourced.

Then in January, 10 IT employees were placed on paid administrative leave and eventually asked to take “reduction in force packages.” The city’s former chief of staff Laura Neumann said at the time that the city was investigating a potential security incident.

An internal investigation was launched into the IT department Jan. 27. In mid-February, the investigation showed there was no breach of city data, Neumann said.

Shortly after the investigation, the city’s deputy chief of information officer Jesse James was put on paid leave and then asked to take a reduction in force package.

Cox said the IT department developed a strategic plan last fall. But the rebuilding the network was not a request in the 2014 budget. Cox said that new IT staffers recently came in and discovered the problems in the IT system. “We wouldn’t be in front of council asking them to move money if it wasn’t important,” Cox said.

Cox said the IT rebuild would be completed by internal staff. He said the $2 million mostly covers software and hardware.

“This is a matter of priorities,” he said. “We’ve got to get our network rebuilt.”