Paul Meekin, MN.IT’s former chief business technology officer and the focus of an investigation into MNLARS’ botched rollout, warned lawmakers Tuesday that if they don’t dig deeper into government’s informational technology services, there will be “damaging impacts to the people of Minnesota.”
In a 108-page, oft-redacted report by Everett and VanderWiel, commissioned by MN.IT, the state’s IT agency, Meekin was described by former co-workers and staff as a leader who “maintained no communications with others working on the project, ceased providing meaningful oversight, and fostered an environment” unkind to questions or challenges.
Meekin told interviewers he knew there were flaws but denied knowing about them until MNLARS went live. Meekin was fired in early March, nearly a month after the report was given to MN.IT officials.
The report highlights interviews with 20 individuals – their names and descriptions redacted – that began in November and concluded in mid-January. These interviewees chided Meekin’s leadership style, from communication to the number of state-employed managers helping overseeing the project, as reasons for failure.
Meekin defended himself in the report, telling investigators placing blame on him “is not fair” because MNLARS “was a government project with many layers of people.” Meekin also said MN.IT didn’t give him time to focus on MNLARS with other IT projects and responsibilities, including for the Department of Corrections.
But on Tuesday, in front of a joint meeting of the House state government and the transportation finance committees, Meekin said he disagreed with the report’s premise – focusing on just his performance – calling it “so fundamentally misguided that it totally misses the point that MNLARS and other systems … can teach us.”
“There must be a full analysis of MNLARS so that we can learn what worked and what didn’t – to better improve how state government delivers IT systems,” he said. “We will continue to see problems … and we will continue to see very damaging impacts to the people of Minnesota if the Legislature and governor don’t dig deep into the many roots of the many problems with state IT.”
Meekin’s brisk testimony lasted about two minutes. Members of the two committees, who, in recent months have barraged officials with pointed questions and terse exchanges, didn’t ask Meekin any questions. Instead, MN.IT commissioner Johanna Clyborne took the brunt of the questioning.
“This is just not about Mr. Meekin,” Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) told Clyborne, who, for most of the meeting was forced to stand at the testifiers’ table because of limited sightlines to questioning lawmakers. “This is about MN.IT as a whole.”
Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles assured legislators his office was digging further into MN.IT and “what went wrong” with MNLARS. Nobles’ office released a preliminary special report last year, but Nobles said the new report, due in 2019, will review finances and why the governor and Legislature weren’t informed of the bubbling problems.
“We are looking into the timeline about what was known by whom,” Nobles said.
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