City's computer chief quits : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


Monday, November 1, 1999 City's computer chief quits

By Lynne Slack Shedlock TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER Scranton's computer database manager abruptly resigned on Friday, causing potential major headaches for the city in the coming weeks.

Morris Jackson gave his verbal resignation to Mayor Jim Connors' office and to Kathy Ruane, deputy business administrator, after trying to set up a meeting with Mr. Connors for two weeks over the city's new computer system.

"I've had it," Mr. Jackson said as he packed his desk. "I cannot continue to work with a man who doesn't respect me and won't work with me. There's no leadership."

Mr. Connors could not be reached for comment.

The city is in the midst of going on-line with a new computer system that will be Y2K compliant. The current system used in payroll and accounting is so antiquated that it cannot be upgraded to meet Y2K requirements. Mr. Jackson was in charge of the computerization.

His departure leaves the city in the lurch partly because 1999 W-2 forms cannot be printed on the new system since it will not have all of the necessary information. The database manager was going to attempt to "fool" the old system into thinking it was still 1999 in order to have the forms printed.

Mrs. Ruane said there are other tasks, such as getting end of the month financial reports from the computer, that no one else on the staff knows how to do.

Finding someone who can do the work will not necessarily be easy because of the system's age and because it has been modified extensively to meet the city's needs. But Mrs. Ruane did not think the problem was insurmountable.

Part of Mr. Jackson's complaint was that he was meeting with resistance from some city employees who he felt needed to travel to Syracuse for training on the new system that the city is leasing from computer provider ACS.

Mr. Jackson said one training week has already been canceled because of those problems. Meanwhile, ACS is backed up with three other cities that it also must have on-line by the beginning of the new year.

While the company will have people at City Hall to provide training once the new system is fired up, Mr. Jackson felt it was important that employees know what they are doing in advance.

He said he repeatedly tried to set up a meeting with the mayor so he could explain the situation and ask Mr. Connors to use his authority to get the employees to go.

"The only thing I get is a call (from the mayor's secretary) saying, 'the mayor says do what you have to do,'" Mr. Jackson said.

He also complained he was told to have an individual trained who Mr. Jackson does not believe needs the training, and that Mr. Connors had made statements about a possible clerical job elimination that resulted in Mr. Jackson being "blackballed" by the city's clerical union.

"That's ridiculous," said clerical union president Nancy Krake, when asked about retaliation concerning the union position. "We have the budget and it's not eliminated."

-- Homer Beanfang (, November 01, 1999


I have to say... I actually am sympathetic to that database manager. Just tell them "Take your job and shove it..." You gotta love that...

Hope no one here lives within that city and relies on special services.

-- STFrancis (, November 01, 1999.

Scranton loses its "CIO" and database manager because the mayor won't pay attention about Y2K. Hershey Foods is having a bit of a melt-down with its new ERP system. Philly schools are up in arms over screw-ups in their new payroll system.

Pennsylvania's certainly having its fair share of fun with computers lately...

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), November 01, 1999.

I would't be at all surprised if after the elections tomorrow (mayor, council), we'll start hearing about city computer problems here in Durham. Perhaps other places will too.

-- Old Git (, November 01, 1999.

Look at the bright side...Scranton is in prime Deer country...only Potter County to the West yields more. Time to stuff a few ears of corn in tree croks and holes near your prefered hunting stand.

Survival poaching...that's the ticket!

-- K. Stevens (kstevens@ It's ALL going away in, November 01, 1999.


-- quit (head@for.hills), November 02, 1999.

Exodus, before the drafting of computer programmers.

-- force fix (, November 02, 1999.

Wednesday, November 3, 1999 Scranton's YMJ bug

Data manager, denied access, blows fuse

Most of the industrialized world anticipates at least minor disruptions due to the "Y2K" computer problem when the calendar flips to Jan. 1, 2000. Scranton's government is way ahead of the flow chart on this one, though, succumbing early to its very own YMJ problem.

The YMJ problem is much like the Y2K problem, in that city officials, despite plenty of advance warning, failed to take any corrective action until it was too late.

Morris Jackson, the city's data manager, has been trying for several years to drag the Connors administration into the 20th century, computer-wise, before it ends. This week, after failing for a protracted period to get an audience with Mayor Jim Connors regarding the Y2K compliance of the city's data systems, he resigned in disgust.

It seemed only a matter of time before Mr. Jackson had little choice but to fall on his sword. As a diligent city employee, trying to effect change while being ignored and denied resources by his superiors, his options were limited.

Fortunately, City Council has enlisted the aid of computer experts from the University of Scranton in an effort to bring about the Y2K compliance of city systems.

That is of scant comfort to Mr. Jackson, whose case illustrates that initiative and persistence in a badly mismanaged government are merely stops on a dead-end street.

-- Homer Beanfang (, November 03, 1999.

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