San Diego On October 26, 1999, the county Board of Supervisors voted to approve a $644 million, seven-year contract to "outsource" the county's computer and telephone operations. The move was heralded by the supervisors as a bold step that would save taxpayers millions of dollars and provide the citizenry with new technological marvels, such as walk-up computer kiosks to provide automated ways of paying taxes and fees. The arrangement was opposed by the county employee union, Service Employees International Union, Local 2028, which argued that the arrangement would lower wages and benefits for workers and result in degraded services.
A year into the contract, things have not gone as smoothly as the supervisors planned, according to a series of internal documents, memos, and e-mails recently produced by the county in response to a request made by the service employees union under provisions of the state public records act. Phone systems have gone down, animal-control databases have crashed, real estate recording systems have malfunctioned, security has been violated, and law-enforcement agents have complained about not being able to log onto an online network called "CLETS," the state's main crime-fighting computer tool.
Not to worry, says the county and its computer contractor. The complaints manifested in the mountain of letters, memos, and e-mails unearthed by the union are just temporary fallout of the switch to private-sector management of the county's data-processing empire. Untangling the mess will take time, they say, but the promised data-processing nirvana will be reached. The service employees union argues that it was right all along and predicts even more trouble ahead.
In either case, the memoranda quoted below provide a glimpse into realms of local government. Excerpts from the letters, preceded by a short glossary of terms, are presented in chronological order.
PA: Pennant Alliance, the group of companies that won the county's data-processing contract; made up of Computer Sciences Corporation, Science Applications International, Pacific Bell, and Avaya.
CSC: Computer Sciences Corporation.
CLETS: California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, "a high-speed store and forward-message switching system that has been operational since 1970. For almost 30 years, this system has provided law enforcement and criminal-justice agencies with a means to inquire and update files of the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) over the California Department of Justice (DOJ) secure law enforcement telecommunications backbone," according to a county description.
SUN: A computer system that "gives online users access to CLETS," according to a county document.
IBIS: Inmate Booking Information System
April 6, 2000
From: Kathy Wilder, CLETS coordinator
Subject: Problems at the FBI office
This month when the SUN report # CX0502-01 was mailed out, the FBI's report went to the wrong location. (It went to George Bailey Jail) where it was opened by the employee at the jail, thinking it was their report. There is highly confidential information included on this printout. This morning the FBI called to complain, and needless to say were quite upset.
Last month I was made aware of at least one other report that was mailed to the wrong division within our department.
These reports need to go to the correct agency and division. Can this please be corrected ASAP?
June 8, 2000
From: R.J. Warner
To: Kathy Wilder
As I am writing this, at 15:25 on Thursday, SUN is very slow at both Records and the Comm Center. Slow means one minute plus for replies from CLETS and many seconds to change screens. This slowdown has been reported by the DSD helpdesk to the PA helpdesk.
I did not see you today and I know you will want to follow up on these problems. I am not trying to blast the PA. This is their chance to show they are on top of things and they follow through on things.
June 9, 2000
From: Neil Rossi, County Chief Deputy Treasurer
To: Tom Boardman, County Chief Technology Officer
Subject: Again needing your help
Once again I find myself in the position of needing your help. I am beginning to feel that everything the Alliance touches goes to hell. Our current problem revolves around the issuance of warrants.
Under California Law, we must refund payments to taxpayers within 60 days or we have to pay them interest. As this results in a loss of funds to the County, we have always made every effort to meet this requirement.
The researching and refunding of taxes is not an easy process. We seem to have residents that make a habit of overpaying or double paying their taxes. In the past we have been able to complete this process on our end and request and receive a warrant in sufficient time to meet the 60-day requirement.
However, now that we have transitioned the data entry and warrant printing processes to the Alliance, what once took 1 week is now taking in excess of 3 weeks, and more typically about 4 weeks. Because of this we are in jeopardy of not meeting the 60-day requirement. In addition to causing poor customer service, the potential financial impact of this delay on the County could be substantial.
Therefore, I am asking for any assistance you can provide in speeding up this process. While I think it should be no slower than the past process for any warrant, at a minimum we need to speed the process for those warrants that cause, or may cause, a financial cost to the County.
Please let me know your thoughts on how we can improve this process. As we approach the closing of the fiscal year, we will be sending out a large amount of warrants, so we need this process resolved by early next week.
Please do not hesitate to call if you have any questions or need additional information.
July 6, 2000
This is documentation of our phone call on 7/6/00 at 1225 hours.
I have reported slow CLETS responses to Pennant Alliance on several occasions. Today while you, RJ, and myself were in a meeting discussing this very issue the problem happened again. The dispatcher on Vista radio ran a license plate to check and see if it was stolen. She did the first inquiry at 10:13:09 with no response. She did another inquiry at 10:13:31 with no response. She finally received the response from CLETS at 10:22:00 that showed the vehicle as a stolen vehicle.