Sun sets on Calif. IT Department

California's IT Department has closed up shop, in accordance with a 1995 law dictating that the department would sunset on July 1 unless the Legislature chose to keep it alive.

Gov. Gray Davis on July 3 ordered state agencies to assume their own oversight of IT projects.
Most of the department's 45 employees were reassigned to other agencies, said Kevin Terpstra, California's spokesman for IT. The Finance Department became custodian of its records and papers.

In a related matter, California Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson on July 2 removed Assemblyman Dean Florez from the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which had investigated a controversial software licensing contract with Oracle Corp.

For several months, the IT Department had been bruised by the controversy surrounding the Oracle license, which the state is now trying to rescind.

TheLegislature held a month of hearings, and top officials resigned, including former CIO Elias Cortez.

'Everybody knew last year that DOIT was going to sunset,' said John Clark Kelso, director of the Finance Department's technology oversight and security unit, which is taking over urgent IT responsibilities.

'There were problems before the Oracle story broke that were entirely unrelated. It was a 'Perfect Storm' type of situation,' Kelso said, referring to the book about the sinking of a fishing boat. 'Oracle was like lobbing a big hand grenade in the middle of an already difficult situation.'

Kelso said the state is still in the process of resolving 'who's in charge of what.'

But there is no chance of resurrecting the IT Department, because the Legislature has spoken clearly, Terpstra said.

Davis directed Kelso and others to look at what sort of IT governance has or hasn't worked in other states.

With its IT department unplugged and without a CIO, California now has an 'opportunity to look at various models to see how IT governance is done,' said Aldona Valicenti, CIO of Kentucky.

'Not to have someone in an oversight position is not in the best interest of the citizens, because IT is so pervasive,' Valicenti said.

Florez out, too

Florez, who had been chairman of the audit committee, described the Oracle contract as a case of the company taking the state 'to the cleaners'.

Florez was removed the day before a scheduled oversight inquiry into the Davis administration's handling of veterans' affairs.

Wesson named Assemblyman Fred Keeley the new chairman of the audit committee.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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