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Y2K report that criticizes city continues to draw suspicion Firm faces accusations of shoddy work, suggestions it had inside track for job

By Greg J. Borowski of the Journal Sentinel staff Last Updated: Sept. 10, 1999

A report by an outside consultant harshly criticizes the city's readiness for Y2K computer problems, but the document faces continued charges of shoddy workmanship and suggestions that the firm had an inside track for the job from the start.

The $125,000 report, which Common Council President John Kalwitz has refused to release, declares the city cannot show its computer systems are Y2K-compliant, but it reads as a document more focused on paperwork and process than results and readiness.

The council is considering paying the firm about $104,000 more - a number reduced Friday from a previously stated $125,000 - to get a more detailed report. But aides to Mayor John O. Norquist say the city should cut its losses now.

"I don't know if they did a horrible job or did not have time to do a decent job," said Kenneth Munson, deputy director of administration. "Our belief is this report is so basically deficient, it cannot be fixed."

Kalwitz, who pushed hard for the outside Y2K review, has refused to release the report - even to most aldermen - saying it is only a draft, despite the fact that New Jersey-based RCG Information Technology submitted it as a final product.

City Attorney Grant Langley has not ruled on an open records request from the Journal Sentinel but is expected to do so Monday.

As the two sides continue to debate the quality of the secret report and whether its conclusions are valid, other documents raise new questions about how RCG wound up with the contract in the first place.

Although the council did not formally consider hiring an outside consultant until May, records show that RCG submitted a proposal to do such a job as early as December. Four months after that proposal was received, an aide to Kalwitz sent a copy of RCG materials to Randy Gschwind, the administration's point man on Y2K efforts.

In a memo back to Kalwitz, Gschwind characterized the firm as having no special expertise above other such firms and that other firms could do the same job for less money. He also suggested that a more formal review of Y2K readiness be done by existing city staff.

That was a key issue in the initial debate over hiring the Y2K consultant: Whether the administration was giving a too-rosy picture of the city's readiness by reviewing and giving high marks to its own efforts.

The council voted 16-1 in June to hire an outside consultant, with Ald. Michael Murphy the lone "no" vote. There is much more council opposition now.

A committee meeting Thursday included bitter complaints among aldermen that information was being withheld from them and they were being asked to vote on spending more on something they were not being permitted to see.

At the time, the measure called for spending up to $125,000 more. The Finance and Personnel Committee will review the matter again Wednesday, though the amount has been reduced to $104,160.

Some critics believe the report is a case of the council being snookered and getting a poor report for $125,000 in taxpayer money. Other critics believe it is a boondoggle, with the firm positioning itself to get the computer fix-up work it says needs to be done.

"Something is fishy here," Murphy said of the report and the fact that it is being withheld. "This is an embarrassment. More and more it's become so political and so non-constructive in terms of trying - if there are problems - to resolve them."

Kalwitz said Friday that the process of selecting the firm had been aboveboard and evenhanded, dismissing any complaints and allegations from the Norquist administration.

"I'd be more concerned about rectifying the problems than sending missiles down here," he said, and then released only the first page of the executive summary of the report, saying: "That provides a taste of it."

The page trashes the city's Y2K effort, saying it lacks staff and money and that officials will face a hard time completing needed preparations before the end of the year.

The Y2K issue centers on concerns that older computer systems that use a two-digit system for recording dates will not be able to handle the changeover from 1999 to 2000, potentially wreaking computerized havoc on everything from traffic lights to emergency dispatch systems to the water supply.

Although a copy of the report has not been given to the Journal Sentinel, a source allowed a reporter to review the document.

On the whole, it paints a very unflattering picture.

Of 22 city departments, 20 are given a grade of "very weak" for their Y2K preparations. The remaining two - the library and the Fire and Police Commission - are given grades of "weak."

The review of the city's most critical systems - such as streetlights, emergency vehicles and dispatch centers - graded all but one as "very weak." The fire dispatch center received a grade of "weak."

The report questions whether the Water Works has plans in place in case there is no water available from Lake Michigan. "While this may be implausible," the report says, "there was no evidence presented that Water has considered what to do if there is insufficient water from Lake Michigan."

In several spots, departments were downgraded because they referred the firm to the city attorney's office for questions about how prepared they were for lawsuits if there were Y2K problems. Defending the city in such cases is the job of the city attorney and his staff.

The report's recommendations center on such things as "chartering" a Y2K office, "formalizing" Y2K methodology and "providing sufficient budget and resources."

Firm Defends Contract Those sorts of statements have led to questions about how the firm got the job and what ties, if any, it has to Kalwitz.

In an interview Friday, Maurice Andrade, RCG's local representative, said the firm had no inside track on the contract, which it received over two other bidders. "Absolutely none, except our experience and that we're good at it. It is ridiculous to say that."

The firm was selected by a three-member committee of aldermen: Kalwitz, Marvin Pratt and Don Richards.

Andrade initially said the firm found out about the city's plan for an outside consultant "earlier this year." Questioned about the Dec. 28, 1998, proposal RCG submitted to Kalwitz, Andrade explained it as a routine proposal for Y2K work submitted to a variety of area companies to solicit work.

Kalwitz said his office forwarded the proposal to Gschwind as a matter of routine.

In the end, the council's Legislative Reference Bureau sent out a request for proposals to 16 firms. Three responded. The bureau's staff then ranked the responses, with RCG getting 90 of a possible 110 points.

Millenium Partners, a Milwaukee firm, received 89. Both topped T3 Technologies, a Tampa, Fla.-based company, which came in at 68 points. That firm was the low bidder, submitting a price of $87,430.

The other two came in essentially at $125,000. In fact, RCG's total bill may be even higher, since it requested 10% travel expenses on top of the bid.

The committee was not obligated to pick either the low bidder or the highest-ranking firm.

[end of story]

Milwaukee was listed as one of the cities that would be ready by September 30, as i recall. Doesn't look like they'll make it. Gotta love the spin the pol's are trying to put on it, though.

-- brew city (, September 13, 1999


And now for something completely different...The report is deficient! ;7)

-- Gia (, September 13, 1999.

I believe the report is accurate, based on conversations with those "in the know". See here. Anyone in the Milwaukee area who wishes to add their two cents worth to this report at a local Y2k forum can do so here< /a>.

-- Steve (, September 14, 1999.

Of 22 city departments, 20 are given a grade of "very weak" for their Y2K preparations. The remaining two - the library and the Fire and Police Commission - are given grades of "weak."

So, does anyone live in a town that got poorer "grades" than this?

-- brew city (, September 14, 1999.

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