Philadelphia CIO’s job move spurs ethics review

Move to wireless operator is questioned. Todd R Weiss reports

Just days after Philadelphia’s CIO resigned to take a job with a company that has done business with the city, Philadelphia’s Mayor John Street asked the city’s board of ethics to look at the job switch to be sure it was appropriate.

Philadelphia CIO Dianah Neff has announced that she is leaving the job she has held since May 2001 to become a senior partner with Civitium, a consulting business for municipal wireless systems. The company had done business with the city under two separate contracts until August 2005, helping Philadelphia create plans for a city-wide wireless network. Her last day of work for the city is September 8.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office confirmed that Street wants the ethics board to review Neff’s resignation, but says that no wrongdoing is implied by the review. The spokesman refused to comment further on the matter.

Neff says she is comfortable with the ethics board review.

“It’s being overly cautious,” which is appropriate because the mayor’s administration has been scrutinised in the past over ethics issues, Neff says.

She has “no problem” with a review, adding, “I believe there’s no issue here, and I believe that’s what they’ll find”.

Neff says Civitium has not done any work for the city since the two past contracts were completed last August. That work cost about US$300,000 (NZ$470,000) and involved radio frequency analyses to ensure that the planned wireless network wouldn’t interfere with other systems.

Neff’s resignation comes at a time when Philadelphia is still enmeshed in negotiations with Oracle over delays to a complex new billing system for its half-million water customers (see Computerworld, August 21, page 26). Neff’s deputy CIO, Terry Phillis, has been named as her replacement.

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