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Philly’s IT department fires long-tenured staff amid a high-level shakeup of priorities

At least four top-level positions were eliminated in a restructuring following the appointment of new CIO Melissa Scott.

Cherelle Parker speaks during a press conference, February 2024. (Flickr/Chris Mansfield/PHLCouncil)

The Philadelphia Office of Innovation and Technology has fired several long-tenured staff members, resulting in what some department insiders see as an unclear plan for how to proceed. 

Several former employees of the department, known as OIT, told Technical.ly this week that their roles had been eliminated due to restructuring. 

Layoffs included the interim COO, deputy COO, process manager and director of digital services, according to department communications manager Kelsey Hubbell, who on Monday confirmed the terminations to Technical.ly. 

Any transition between mayoral administrations usually involves restructuring, so this change wasn’t completely unexpected within the department, according to a former OIT employee. However, they said, the speed of the shift ended up removing people with institutional knowledge without giving them time to hand off their work. 

Another former OIT leader, ex-Director of Digital Services Sara Hall, described her layoff on LinkedIn as “deeply disappointing, not only because of the personal impact but considering the potential implications for the city’s digital progress.” Two others, including former interim COO Amy Pearlman and former senior director for interdepartmental collaboration Kyle Johnson, also posted to LinkedIn about being laid off due to restructuring. 

The changes in team structure are happening to align with Mayor Cherelle Parker’s goals for the department, according to a termination letter shared with Technical.ly. 

Several former department staffers, who all asked to remain anonymous to avoid jeopardizing future job prospects, said the layoffs of long-tenured staff left gaps in the institutional knowledge within the department. 

OIT has not responded to Technical.ly’s request to elaborate on why they are restructuring, if there are plans to backfill the roles, or what the Parker administration’s broader digital strategy is. 

The department has posted multiple open positions over the last few weeks on its jobs board

Staffing changes come just weeks after new CIO appointment

Some former OIT employees suggested that staff was let go shortly after a seemingly surface-level disagreement with Philadelphia’s newly appointed Chief Information Officer Melissa Scott.

When Parker took office in January, Sandra Carter was serving as OIT’s interim chief information officer. In April, Parker appointed Scott, a longtime city employee, as the department’s new chief. Carter now works in the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer. 

Scott’s public service background with the city began in IT project management, starting at the Office of Property Assessment. She’s worked with the Department of Revenue, Department of Licensing and Inspections and OIT, moving from project manager to a program manager to IT director.

Scott declined to comment on the ongoing staff changes within the department, but spoke with Technical.ly shortly after her CIO appointment. At the time, she outlined a goal to focus on people, both constituents and the employees in her department. 

“Making sure that they have the ability to skill up, receive the training that they deserve and feel appreciated for all their hard work,” Scott said in April, “is very important.”

OIT will also focus on improving customer service, she said, aligning with the Parker administration’s goal to make it easier to navigate city resources, as well as recruiting and diversity, to align with Parker’s stated mission to increase economic opportunity for all. 

“A lot of individuals within our department work very hard every day, but we don’t do a good job at telling our story a lot,” Scott said. “So that’s what I’m looking forward to.” 

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: City of Philadelphia / Office of Innovation and Technology

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