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A lame excuse from CMS

Friday, Aug 15, 2014

* The Illinois Department of Central Management Services was mandated by statute way back in 2012 to expand a state employee database to include municipal employees. CMS claims it was never appropriated any money and so never expanded the database.

One of the co-sponsors of that legislation, Rep. Jack Franks, is not happy

“There was no appropriation necessary,” Franks said. Local governments “already have this information and all they have to do is transmit it to the state electronically. There’s absolutely no cost and anybody who hides behind that ought to be tarred and feathered.”

State law requires local government agencies to post salary information on their own websites about employees whose annual total compensation exceeds $75,000. Many post the information for all employees.

* And

West Chicago Republican state Rep. Mike Fortner was the chief sponsor of the bill to add library district employees to the database. He had no idea when his bill passed last August that Central Management Services officials hadn’t implemented the database for other local government employees. He also said he was never informed of appropriation issues.

“I would naively suspect that if you’ve got the person on staff doing the website for the state agency, it’s at most an incremental increase in responsibility,” he said. “I get that the first time (reporting) may take more work, but maintaining it would not be near as much.”

* And

Because none of the laws include an enforcement component, there’s little recourse to compel the state agency to create the databases, according to legal experts.

The governor ought to step in and order CMS to do its job.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


44 Comments
  1. - OneMan - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 11:45 am:

    CMS claims it was never appropriated any money and so never expanded the database.

    Kind of summarizes Illinois Government doesn’t it.


  2. - Guzzlepot - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 11:45 am:

    I can see where some additional appropriation might be necessary. The data might need to be reformatted to go into the CMS database. You might need an additional database admin. I can where additional funding might be needed. But without additional info you can’t be sure.


  3. - Fiercely Independent - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 11:45 am:

    Unfortunately, that’s fairly typical of CMS.


  4. - Skeptic - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    There’s a reason (ok, LOTS of reasons) why CMS is so widely dispised among the IT staffs of other agencies. They need funding partly so that their forms (filled out in triplicate, sent to three different people, lost by two of them, then sent on to someone else only to wind up on the first person’s desk after four more meetings only to have the project rejected and sent back to square one) can be all signed off before they even start. You’d think that with as much as they charge other agencies to lease computer equipment, they’d have enough left over to do it.


  5. - dupage dan - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 11:58 am:

    === The governor ought to step in and order CMS to do its job ===

    That’s rich Rich. Maybe he oughta fumigate while he’s at it. Oh, wait, never mind.


  6. - VanillaMan - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 12:00 pm:

    Government over-reaching is stymied by government under-performing.

    It is that Balance of Incompetence built into our governing system!


  7. - david starrett - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 12:00 pm:

    I watched one State employee wait weeks to get a lightbulb replaced.


  8. - JustMe_JMO - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 12:02 pm:

    Was there anything in the statute that mandated when and how local government agencies were to provided this information to CMS?

    Just what information was the sponsors looking for and why?


  9. - Skeptic - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 12:10 pm:

    David Starret: I worked for CMS, and once a co-worker’s monitor broke. Instead of doing what you or I would do (swap his monitor with the unused one in the cube next to him) or what 99.999% of other organizations would do (grab one from the storage closet) or what fewer, but still reasonable places would do (call someone to see if you could borrow one until a replacement can be had) they had him move over to the unused cubicle to use that computer. And of course the computer wasn’t set up right (there’s several hours of effort), and all his books and papers weren’t in that cube. And it took two weeks for a new monitor to come in. Of course by then he had to move all his stuff back to his regular cube. And it’s probably because their computer system didn’t have a check box for “swap the monitor for the cubicle next to him.”


  10. - Skeptic - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 12:11 pm:

    And keep in mind this is the “Leaner, Do-More-With-Less” CMS left behind be Blago.


  11. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 12:13 pm:

    What a load of hot garbage.

    From the sound of things, this info simply needs to be emailed to CMS or mailed on a disk.

    The fact there are no punishments or enforcement components is hardly an excuse. There should not need to be a punishment component on something like this because it is CMS’ job to do this.

    Normally, if you do not do your job you get fired. That tends to be punishment enough.


  12. - Anon - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 12:25 pm:

    The number of state employees has been reduced by 25% since 2002. Lawmakers who expect fewer and fewer workers to do more and more with reduced funding might be a tad unreasonable. Unless they have reduced their own staffs by 25%, reduced spending on staff, and ratcheted up the workload.


  13. - Budget Watcher - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 12:36 pm:

    Stories like this shouldn’t be surprising anymore. State government is running operations with 30% fewer people than 10 years ago; in short, there are performance gaps everywhere. Let’s assume for a moment that the CMS staff person in charge of coordinating this project retired after the bill was passed, as did his or her manager. It subsequently took 12 months to get the Governor’s Office to approve the replacement hires and when the replacement staff came in, no one was left to tell them about a legislative mandate from 2 sessions ago. Or perhaps the positions are still waiting to be filled. This kind of stuff happens all too frequently when trying to operate with too few people and/or with staff incapable of handling added responsibilities.

    It may sound lame, but in many places agencies are spread a lot thinner than most of you know.


  14. - Anyone Remember - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 12:45 pm:

    Formerly Known As…
    =this info simply needs to be emailed to CMS or mailed on a disk.=

    Exactly how does the data get from the email / disk to the database?


  15. - frustrated GOP - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 12:47 pm:

    OK, yes there are less people. however, when you have a culture as described above, no we aren’t surprised. Best reason to vote for a change. maybe we’ll get some dept. heads to start lighting fires under people. Wait, isn’t there an audit of the laws each department is required to institute and where they are at with implementation? Perhaps that info should be sent to the GA for review.


  16. - Norseman - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 12:49 pm:

    Sorry, but I strongly disagree. It’s easy for a legislator to spout off that this can be done or that can be done with existing resources. The problem is that we’re talking about reductions in staff, failure to appropriate funds for existing projects.

    I’m sure he was told this function wouldn’t be undertaken without a specific appropriation. It was specifically written into the law. See If this was no big deal, the agency wouldn’t asked for it. See Public Act 097-0744 states:

    “Subject to appropriation, the full-time webmaster must also compile and update the ITAP database with information received from all counties, townships, and municipalities.”

    Contrary to the couch computer experts that have no clue as to what there doing, there are a number of considerations that must be undertaken to properly maintain the website. The data needs to be submitted within a set format and on a regular basis.

    Take into consideration what the Act requires from the locals:

    “(7) A searchable database of all current county, township, and municipal employees sorted separately by: (i) Employing unit of local government. (ii) Employment position title. (iii) Current pay rate and year-to-date pay.”

    This will require consistent follow-up with a very large number of governmental units. They want a
    “current” database, so every time an employee gets a pay raise or a promotion, the database will need to be updated.

    The state’s website now is replete with obsolete information and data. Lets get working on that before we start adding more unfunded work to the pile.

    So man up Franks. If this is such a big deal to you, do what you knew the bill asked for and convince your fellow lawmakers to fund this mandate over the many other real needs we have in this state.


  17. - anon - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:02 pm:

    I don’t think this is a lame excuse. Simply put, there isn’t a way for data from hundreds of municipalities to go into a master database without some cleaning and standardization, and then enforcement. Someone or multiple people need to be paid to do this. There is no zero cost solution, and to think so is incredibly naive. If it could be done for free, one of the newspapers would have already done it.


  18. - Budget Watcher - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:03 pm:

    If any of us went to our favorite restaurant and they were operating with 20% fewer servers, 50% fewer cooks, and 20% fewer shift managers, there’s a pretty good chance we’re going to get worse service than we’re accustomed to. Food may be slow, or cold, poorly prepared, they got our order wrong, etc.

    The owners can certainly change the restaurant manager, but the new manager will still have an undermanned staff. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Rauner handles an eroded workforce.


  19. - Bemused - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:08 pm:

    For my money DD@ 11:58 has the top post. I have heard some of the top people at CMS were there even before the Blago years.


  20. - 11thHour - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:19 pm:

    As someone who actually works in IT, the notion that data from hundreds of sources can just auto-magically be incorporated into an existing system is very, well, uninformed. I don’t know all of the technical details of the existing system, but I can’t imagine a scenario where this could be accomplished with no work effort and expense.


  21. - Sir Reel - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:19 pm:

    I recall when Blago expanded CMS’ role/control. What fun.

    Unlike most State agencies that have public constituencies, CMS has none and it’s incompetence is generally hidden from public view.

    It’s hard for transparency to shine a light on your problems when nobody knows you exist.


  22. - lollinois - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    Agreed with anon@1:02, anyone who thinks this is a trivial, no-cost implementation is deluding themselves. From what it sounds like, creating such a database and systems to import the data from hundreds of different sources is going to take a considerable amount of time. That time needs to be paid for somehow, doesn’t it?


  23. - Moderate Repub - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:29 pm:

    Does the Public Act say “subject to appropriations”?


  24. - Norseman - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:32 pm:

    Moderate: YES, see above.


  25. - Going nuclear - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:35 pm:

    I have to agree with Norseman. Rep. Franks agreed with the “subject to appropriation” language in the bill. He should work to ensure that there is sufficient funding to get the job done.


  26. - Skeptic - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:37 pm:

    Along with my criticsm of CMS comes whole-hearted agreement with 11thHour and lollinois. I remember once someone bought a little hand scanner (back in the days when that was really special), and the image came up on the screen. He said, “We’re *this* close to having this in our product!” And of course “*this* close” took me about 4 weeks of full-time effort because it wasn’t close at all.

    So let’s make an analogy, this project is similar to “let’s gather everyone’s checkbook entries for this year and make it searchable.” Some of you use Quicken, some use Money, some use Quickbooks, some use Excel, some use paper, some use…well…nothing. Try making that into a searchable, updatable database without paying someone.


  27. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:53 pm:

    The argument is: “This is completely duplicative so it shouldn’t cost anything.”

    Unfortunately, that sounds too much like the General Assembly.

    Normally I am with the GA, but state government is far behind the digital 8 ball.

    Who besides the BGA, a handful of reporters and opposition research firms cares about this?


  28. - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:55 pm:

    Let’s call it what it is. For the last decade of tight budgets, the “truce” that has been reached between the executive branch and the legislative branch is - you legislators can go ahead and pass bill after bill after bill that we don’t really have the funds to pay for, so long as you include “subject to appropriations”. Then the executive branch will sign the bill and ignore it, unless and until you make an actual appropriation to get it done. There are literally thousands of such bills that have been passed, and EVERYONE knows that this little charade has been going on. The legislators are happy, because they get to send out their press releases about passing something, and the executive is happy, because they don’t have to do something they don’t have the money (or sometimes inclination) to do.

    Now, after this has been going on for more than a decade, for legislators and others to start throwing pot shots at the agencies, with the suggestion that the Governor just ‘order’ them to do it, because — how hard could it be to do just one more thing? — is dishonest and shameful.

    You are only entitled to the government you’re willing to pay for, not the one you wish for.


  29. - Empty Suit - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:57 pm:

    CMS should be dismantled, billion plus dollar budget, couple thousand employees, what a waste.


  30. - Judgment Day - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:57 pm:

    “As someone who actually works in IT, the notion that data from hundreds of sources can just auto-magically be incorporated into an existing system is very, well, uninformed. I don’t know all of the technical details of the existing system, but I can’t imagine a scenario where this could be accomplished with no work effort and expense.”
    —————————

    This.

    And the legislature wants CMS to create/build/modify a database (modify an existing DB -Shudder!!!~) -or- create a new DB (an IT version of Doomsday!!).

    And then you want to digitally import on a continuous basis all the information from all the units of local government????

    Why do we want to create our own statewide version of healtcare.gov? Only it would be in administration, instead of healthcare. And just as effective.

    It’s a laudable idea, but but this would turn into an administrative nightmare beyond imagination. I’m sitting here trying to imagine how I’m ever going to get this information from most townships. And in what format.

    We’re going to see data formats back from the days of IBM System 3 Model 12, Lotus Approach, DbIII, CPT and IBM Displaywriter, 8″ floppies, CP/M, etc. This is going to get to be FUN!

    Let’s rethink this - Please…..


  31. - Norseman - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:58 pm:

    Let me expand a little further on law. Franks sponsored the bill and allowed HA #1 to be added. All that amendment did was add the “subject to appropriation” language. Clearly this was a CMS requested amendment to deal with financial concerns they had. In my days, we discussed these with the sponsor. This amendment would not have been adopted by a Democratic controlled committee without Franks approval or at least his acquiescence. This “amended” bill passed the House with Franks support.

    So Rep. Franks, get off your publicity seeking high horse and move on to something a little more important.


  32. - Jack Handy - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 1:59 pm:

    Bah! The “cloud” can do this for free.


  33. - facts are stubborn things - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 2:00 pm:

    I bet nobody asked the guy or girl that actually would be doing the work what it would take to get the job done. If it is like the department I worked at for 28 years it was astonishing how the directors and up would decide things and no one ever asked me or anyone else that had been doing the work for years how things might be done best. it was laughable to watch then make mistake after mistake that you could see coming for miles away. Usually it was something tried years ago or their totally miss understanding of operational issues. They would often then blame us that we were not flexible enough or willing to make things work. I must say things use to be better in my world under Thompson, Edgar and even Ryan. Once Blogo got there things really went down hill.


  34. - Norseman - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 2:02 pm:

    === The “cloud” can do this for free. ===

    LOL. Every once in a while a cloud will give me a shower too.


  35. - Getsold - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 2:04 pm:

    Another poorly researched, unfunded mandate. Perhaps Rep. Franks could call CMS admin to determine what the breakdown might be and whether he can help. This is obviously a significant issue for him - calling for tar and feathers and all.


  36. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 2:12 pm:

    @FKA, if you are going to require them of every “legislative leader,” you need to require them of every legislative candidate.


  37. - Skeptic - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 2:22 pm:

    Judgement Day: What, no punch cards or cassette tapes? What about paper tape??


  38. - Judgment Day - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 2:26 pm:

    System 3 Model 12 was old 96 col. cards (the short ones), whereas big iron all tended to be 80 col. cards (the wide ones). Also, those paper tapes. Oh, fun times!

    Maybe Addressagraph plates.


  39. - Judgment Day - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 2:30 pm:

    I always remember how the system operators used to keep a stack of punch cards in order. They would get them in a box and use a specific color coded magic marker and draw a diagonal line across the finished card stock.

    Then if there was a card out of order, you could easily tell. Just don’t drop the entire box.


  40. - Sound - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 2:36 pm:

    Completely agree with Norseman and similar comments - complying with all the IT requirements of this legislation requires extensive resources. You have to pull people off other projects to do this work or find other means. Franks is being disingenuous, at best. He knows or should know this information.

    If Franks and the GA don’t want CMS or other State agencies to use the appropriations excuse, don’t pass bills that are subject to appropriation. 

    And don’t draft bills if you have no concept of all the budgetary or implementation issues. Have the self-respect to understand all aspects of your legislation.

    People take for granted the complexities behind the IT systems we now use in every facet of our lives - these cost money to create, build, update, and maintain.


  41. - Macbeth - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 2:48 pm:

    Or locate an agency with a full-time webmaster and a DB guru. There are several. All it takes is a couple of phone calls and emails.


  42. - Black Ivy - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 2:59 pm:

    Databases can be established with very little fanfare for minimal cost. #shadydealings


  43. - siriusly - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 3:23 pm:

    I suspect there is a real cost to this. Jacks’ tantrum seems a bit misplaced to me.


  44. - been there - Friday, Aug 15, 14 @ 3:49 pm:

    Dear Jack Franks and Mike Fortner,

    As with most things, constant vigilance is the price of anything worthwhile. Getting your bill signed into law means nothing unless you make sure that the people who have to do the work are doing the work.

    been there


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