Pines fires Y2K chief after city says he gave false assurances : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Pembroke Pines is a large, affluent suburb if Miami/Ft. Lauderdale.

Pines fires Y2K chief after city says he gave false assurances

PEMBROKE PINES -- The clock is ticking as this city prepares its computers for the Year 2000.

    Officials say computers that handle everything from elevators at City Hall to city gas pumps will be ready on time. But they cannot guarantee that because they recently fired their top computer manager, who was allegedly giving them false assurances of the city's Y2K compliance.

In December, a $160,000 study revealed the city's readiness for the Year 2000 is "in question." The study by Deloitte & Touche pointed to a variety of computer systems -- from those that control utility billing to city budgets -- that are not yet Y2K compliant.

As a result, City Manager Charlie Dodge in January fired Stephen Levak, manager of information technology. In a Feb. 1 letter to Levak, Dodge wrote that Levak "placed the city in the position of possible Y2K failure for its financial functions."

"The Y2K issue looms large for us with many obstacles to be resolved," Dodge wrote. "It would be most appropriate to be able to focus the strength of our attention to solving these problems, yet we find ourselves in the midst of reorganizing a struggling division and working to bring it up to speed."

But Dodge and Assistant City Manager Terry Stewart said the city should be able to solve all of its Y2K issues before Jan. 1, many by Oct. 1, the start of its fiscal year.

"I understand there are some issues that are not resolved as of this date, but we are working hard to resolve them before the dates that matter," Stewart said. "There is no reason to believe we won't be successful, but I give you the caveat that I'm not an expert."

Stewart said the city can better assess its readiness once it hires a replacement for Levak. By the third week of April, officials will begin reviewing applications, Stewart said. In addition, the city plans to expand its information technology department from 19 to 27 employees.

In the meantime, several projects to get the city Y2K compliant are under way. The city is rewriting its utility-billing software as well as the package that oversees transportation matters such as buses that take senior citizens to and from the doctor.

In addition, many Y2K-related projects such as those in the police department are complete.

One critical component of the financial programs cannot be fixed until May because a part for it will not be ready until then. Officials expect that installing the part and working out the kinks will take about a month and a half after that.

To oversee these projects, Dodge created a computer committee that meets every week.

Mayor Alex Fekete said he plans to keep watch on the situation, too, adding that for months he has been voicing his concerns about the Y2K readiness.

"I'm not concerned the elevators are going to be falling," he said. "But there's a feeling that we're further behind than we ought to be."

The neighboring city of Hollywood expects that it, too, will be completely Y2K compliant by October or November, said Dennis Hoover, that city's director of systems and programming.

"At this point, I don't expect anything not to be ready," Hoover said.

But some cities such as Fort Lauderdale are ahead of schedule. About a year and a half ago, it began testing various applications to ensure their Y2K compliance.

"There always will be one or two things that we didn't think of because we're all human," said Lee Holroyd, the city's information systems director. "I feel extra confident that by the end of June, we'll be complete and ready for the surprises."

Jodie Needle can be reached at jneedle{commat} or at (954)385-7908

-- Online2Much (, March 30, 1999


Can you say -scapegoat-?

I've been expecting to hear more of this sort of thing...wasn't it Georgia who dismissed their coordinator for the same reason...may be wrong about the state.

-- Shelia (, March 30, 1999.

The one that fired him is probably a diehard doomer.

-- doomslayer (doom@your.imagination), March 30, 1999.

He was giving false assurances of the city's Y2K compliance? Imagine that. Unbelievable.

-- a (a@a.a), March 30, 1999.

Gasp! You mean they can do that? Actually lie to you about compliance? I thought that was against the DGI rules?

-- Shocked (, March 30, 1999.

Ah, I've seen this sort of thing too many times. I hope everyone noticed (though nobody mentioned) that nobody even bothered to try to interview poor Mr. Levak. Do you suppose that the sun-sentinel is a local rag, and might be more interested in presenting the current 'official city position' than maybe investigating a little?

We had a similar case here. The county water chief found bacteria in the well that supplies most of the county. He wrote up his report and gave it to the city council. They sat on it, because the alternative was to spend millions on a water treatment plant upgrade, and that means taxes, which cost votes, etc.

When the State finally demanded the report, the city council responded by firing the water chief for not providing it -- he *failed* to warn the council about a health hazard!

Being an experienced bureaucrat, the water chief had carefully recorded everything, including a receipt from the council for the report, and even recorded comments council members had made about the report at the time he delivered it. Net result -- he stayed fired. *Somebody* has to take the blame for the council's refusal to spend money, public health and safety be damned. The water chief knew which way the wind blew. His choice was to get fired now or later, and he chose later.

And that's the way the world wobbles, folks. I imagine Mr. Levak kept city hall advised of the y2k status, confidentially at their insistence (or he's fired NOW). And when they couldn't wait any longer, then they blamed him for 'failure to advise'.

In politics, you should never be bearer of bad news. Otherwise, you're blamed for it if you follow orders, and blamed if you don't.

-- Flint (, March 30, 1999.

He probably will get a big-bucks position at Ko-skin-em's Federal Ministery of Y2K (un)Truths.

I mean, except for getting caught he's got a great resume. With a little luck and no outside auditor (which is how most federal agencies are doing things) he could have kept the wool over their eyes until late December.

I predict big things for this guy, maybe even a vice, assistant, under-secretary to the deputy position. This guy needs to go to the big leagues now!


-- Wildweasel (, March 30, 1999.

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