City's VoIP phone situation 'a case of epic stakeholder mismanagement,' says CIO Chris Tonjes - Technical.ly Baltimore

Oct. 2, 2012 12:27 pm

City’s VoIP phone situation ‘a case of epic stakeholder mismanagement,’ says CIO Chris Tonjes

A new front has opened up in the battle over the city’s attempt to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars in VoIP phones and equipment. The Baltimore Sun reports that an investigation led by city inspector general David N. McClintock “into the Rawlings-Blake administration’s purchase of nearly $675,000 in phone and computer equipment found possible conflicts of interest […]

Baltimore City Hall.

A new front has opened up in the battle over the city’s attempt to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars in VoIP phones and equipment.

The Baltimore Sun reports that an investigation led by city inspector general David N. McClintock “into the Rawlings-Blake administration’s purchase of nearly $675,000 in phone and computer equipment found possible conflicts of interest and missed opportunities for ‘significant cost savings.'”

The investigation predates new city CIO Chris Tonjes, but as it touches his office, he’s been brought into the conversation.

Apparently complicit in the purchase was the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology, which “withheld information” from city council members about the phone upgrade for the city government, according to the Sun

The mayor’s information office failed to get multiple quotes when buying equipment, which could have yielded savings, McClintock wrote. He also wrote that two key managers charged with implementing the new system were contractors with Rockville-based Digicon Corp. One of them was allowed to commit city resources “in a way that financially benefited Digicon.”

The mayor’s information technology office “failed to take reasonable and appropriate measures to ensure that contractors did not engage in activity that either created conflicts of interest or the appearance thereof,” McClintock wrote. “It is apparent that either the conflict issues were not recognized or that they were dismissed.” [more]

Speaking about the VoIP confrontation at the Baltimore TechBreakfast in August, present chief information officer Chris Tonjes said, “In the annals of project management and technology, this’ll probably go down as a case of epic stakeholder mismanagement.”

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Another article by the Baltimore Sun explains that a “clandestine effort” was underway to upgrade the city’s phone system, a project that started during Rico Singleton‘s tenure as the city’s chief technology officer.

With the release of a city inspector general’s investigative report that detailed possible conflicts of interest and wasteful practices in the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology, emails from Singleton and others were made public. They show a concerted effort to cut out Comptroller Joan M. Pratt’s office, which has traditionally controlled the phone system, and to mislead Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young. The emails contained in David N. McClintock’s report depict administrators in the mayor’s technology office eager to keep their effort to upgrade city phones secret. [more]

Singleton resigned in March this year following reports that the state of New York was auditing him for questionable deals he made while serving as deputy chief for New York’s Office of Technology. Present chief information officer Chris Tonjes did not begin working until late July.

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