Utah CIO resigns amid uproar over hiring practices

Utah Chief Information Officer Phil Windley submitted his resignation to Gov. Mike Leavitt Dec. 5 stating that he believes he has become a political liability rather than an asset.

"With recent events, I have come to realize that I have become an impediment to implementing our vision for e-government and an efficient and effective information technology infrastructure," Windley wrote in his resignation letter.

"The conversation has increasingly become about me instead of the important work that needs to be done to benefit the citizens of Utah. Because of that, I have decided to step aside."

His resignation follows criticism of his hiring practices by state lawmakers and disgruntled state employees. A backlash arose against Windley when legislative auditors reported in September that Information Technology Services managers bypassed or manipulated state hiring practices to give jobs to nine of his former colleagues at the now-defunct Internet company Excite@Home, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The alleged hiring abuses include the hiring of a former Excite employee at $75 an hour by a state contractor to avoid competitive hiring practice; the payment of an Excite worker even before she had signed a $100,000 contract with the state; the redefining of a job to meet the $80,000 annual salary requirements of a former Excite worker; and the forced retirement of a longtime ITS manager to make way for an Excite worker, the newspaper reported.

Windley, whose resignation is effective Dec. 31, has pointed out that he is not the director of the Information Technology Services, where the legislature has questioned hiring practices. The job belongs to Windley's former Excite colleague Stephen Fuller.

Members of the state legislature have asked state auditors to continue to investigate irregularities in the Information Technology Services division, and the state attorney general also is reviewing the matter.

In his three-page resignation letter, Windley cited a number of accomplishments he made while serving at state CIO, including the creation of a unified state Web site, the development of a dozen new e-government applications, the establishment of a single computer directory of state employees to facilitate authentication, and the initiation of an electronic enterprise resource planning project to build a new eligibility system that will serve as a model of interoperability.

He also identified a number of "roadblocks" to successful information technology management. For the state to improve its IT management, the governor and legislature should increase the state CIO's authority, consolidate and integrate the state's computer network, and increase salaries for technology workers, he wrote.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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