City investigates IT leak

Published 11:04 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

A city official said Wednesday there is an investigation afoot into how local media outlets, including the Suffolk News-Herald, obtained a copy of a report that blasted the city’s Information Technology department.

The Suffolk News-Herald broke the story earlier this week about the consultant’s report, which criticized nearly every aspect of the department and traced many of the problems directly to the “leadership deficiencies,” further assigning those “deficiencies” specifically to the director of the department, Clifford Branch, who was recently reassigned to a regional emergency communications project.

The city had refused to release the report, citing an exemption for “working papers.” But the Suffolk News-Herald obtained a copy through a source who leaked it when recommended changes had not been made months after the report was presented to City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn.

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“I’m not sure where to start,” Cuffee-Glenn said when Councilman Charles Parr asked her at Wednesday’s City Council meeting to comment on the story.

“I’m not certain how the media outlets really got possession of the initial assessment,” she continued. “As required by law, we never release a report that contains confidential personnel information. This has been reported to the appropriate authorities, and an investigation is moving forward as it relates to that.”

Cuffee-Glenn continued: “All I can say is we’re very proud of what our city is doing. We have some very good employees in our IT department, but we do have challenges we have to address as to how services should be rendered and leadership should be provided. We will continue to work on improvements, not just IT but every department that comprises the city organization.”

Following the city manager’s comments, Parr said he wanted to start a conversation on how to better get the “city story” out.

“Just to remind the public, we as council persons are policy makers,” he added. “We’re not supposed to be involved in personnel matters. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.”

Parr did not return phone messages left at his home and his business Thursday to request clarification on his statements.

Earlier in the meeting, the council approved changes to job titles in the IT department that were recommended by the consultant, Endurance IT Services.

Blake White from Endurance spoke during the hearing and said the IT department had “some great members” but that there was a need to modify the organizational structure. He also gave an affirmative response to a question from Councilman Mike Duman, who asked whether the department’s only problem was with personnel.

But Cuffee-Glenn acknowledged during the discussion that the department has “a myriad of problems, and it’s not just staffing. It covers the gamut.”

Problems noted in the Endurance report weren’t limited to the organizational structure — they included out-of-date technological infrastructure and hardware, no accurate asset inventory, restrictive policies, and more.