After news broke of a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by ex-CIO Charlie Brennan against the City of Philadelphia, the former occupant of Brennan’s office had a couple things to get off his mind.
According to Adel Ebeid, the Chief Innovation Officer under Mayor Michael Nutter, who stepped down in December 2015, his tenure did focus on back-office work and the upkeep of legacy technology systems.
“It’s unfortunate that some folks held a view that we only focused on supporting the civic tech movement and paid less attention to ‘back office’ functions,” said Ebeid in an email Thursday. “Anyone who felt that way was missing a critical point — the vision was to invite the civic tech community as partners and collaborators. By contributing their skills and ideas, they were able to channel their passion for good government to help us modernize the city’s ‘back office’ systems.”
In 2016, after leaving office to join Arlington, Va.-based sustainability company Green Diamond Solutions as president for innovation and technology, the former tech chief made a similar clarification, by saying tasks related to legacy systems upkeep made up the majority of his daily schedule, despite the notoriety of the Office of Innovation and Technology’s more flashy undertakings like the redesign of website Phila.gov.
Then–Chief Administrative Officer Rebecca Rhynhart said through a spokesperson in 2016 that incoming Mayor Jim Kenney wanted “an IT leader who was focused and knowledgeable on the core systems, and Charlie fit this bil.”
Per Ebeid, the vision he sought to carry out was part of the recruitment pitch and was shared during public strategy sessions and speaking events.
“Many cities around the U.S. followed Philadelphia’s path to government modernization which helped us attract top talent to the OIT team,” Ebeid said. “We’re not naive to think that everyone internally agreed with that strategy but the process was working — the city did attract top talent, that talent helped us open up communication and collaboration with local civic tech, and more importantly, it helped us tackle some of government’s more vexing tech challenges.”
Ebeid joined the city’s tech office in 2011, after a stint as CTO for the State of New Jersey.
“I’ve been in government long enough to understand and appreciate that each administration needs a team wired to their goals and objectives,” the former tech chief wrote. “I consider myself fortunate to have served the city; my only hope is that the next CIO would take the time to reach out and establish a strong bond with the local tech community. Their talent, passion, and ideas would be force multipliers in the modernization effort (which is likely to span multiple administrations). And, they’re also customers, residents, and advocates for good government.”-30-