Mayor fires IT manager

By Paul Archipley | Jun 27, 2012

Mayor Joe Marine fired the city’s IT manager last week, following a months-long computer system breakdown that wiped out reams of data.

Dave Varga was terminated June 18 after the mayor decided he no longer had confidence in the IT (Information Technology) manager’s performance.

Varga became the third city staffer to depart following a system breakdown that initially resulted in the loss of an estimated 1.5 terabytes of data.

(A terabyte is a multiple of the unit byte for digital information. One terabyte equals 1 trillion bytes. For comparison, the IBM computer Watson, which competed against “Jeopardy!” contestants in 2011, has 16 terabytes of RAM.)

Due to employment law restrictions, city officials are limited in what they can say about reasons for terminating an employee.

However, following advice from the city’s attorney, they said Varga was fired because of his “poor job performance, specifically, inadequacy or inefficiency in the performance of his official duties.”

The mayor said Varga had stated that his number one priority was making sure city data was protected and available to staff, and the system failed.

He was responsible for overseeing the installation and implementation of a backup system, which also failed, Marine said.

The lack of a backup system resulted in the city spending large amounts of time and money to retrieve the lost data, the mayor added.

“The City relied on him for an important aspect of the City’s operations that affects multiple departments, and he let the City down,” Marine said in a statement.

The data loss occurred when a cooling system failed in the building’s server room, and numerous computer systems and backups crashed.

Eventually, most of the data was recovered, including its financial system, criminal evidence photos, audio recordings, grant information and other city files, at a cost of about $36,000.

Finance Director Scott James said the city is looking to spend an estimated $171,500 on a new system.

Two employees, the city’s former network engineer and former accounting services manager, quit City Hall, charging the underlying issue in the city’s IT department was poor management and poor decision-making, although they weren’t pointing fingers at Varga, who they said was the department manager only in title.

On Monday, Mayor Marine said he was leaning toward contracting out computer system services, rather than hire new in-house people to oversee the IT department.

“The more we discuss it, the direction I see us going is contracting it out,” he said. “It will make us more nimble.”

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