Carter Not Fazed by Turmoil in IT Department

Something apparently went wrong when new St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter hit the reset button on the city’s IT department upon taking office. It seems employees in the Office of Technology and Communications are bailing out faster than they can be replaced, according to the Pioneer Press.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter promised to think outside the box when it came to appointing directors to oversee the 3,000 public employees in city departments. But his decision not to reappoint the director of the Office of Technology and Communications — St. Paul’s IT department — even took some longstanding supporters by surprise.

Tarek Tomes, who had led the department of 68 employees for almost four years under former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, had reapplied for the position but was moved into a new role within City Hall last December, despite winning high praise from Coleman.

Instead, Carter appointed a professional acquaintance — information management consultant Sharon Kennedy Vickers — to become the city’s new chief information technology officer.

Since then, departures and resignations within OTC have mounted.

You have to read between the lines but there appears to be an issue connected to the change in management.

Six full-time employees and three temporary part-timers have left since January, according to the St. Paul Department of Human Resources. They include Deputy Director Jeff Nyberg, who gave his two weeks notice but was instead escorted out of the building within a day.

“The mayor made a leadership change, that change didn’t work for me, and I decided to find other employment, which I did successfully,” said Nyberg, who said he accepted a new job in the private sector and declined further comment. “It’s unfortunate the way it all happened, but I really do like my new role and responsibilities.”

In fact, half of the jobs in the division that most affects public users of city online services remain open.  Yet Carter gives no indication that he’s concerned over the internal turmoil that started on his watch.

On Monday, Carter said the Office of Technology and Communications was still meeting expectations and delivering new online products, such as the new “Serve St. Paul” website.

“I’m not going to go into specific HR decisions, but my specific expectations of our OTC department is that we are asking them to meet the needs of our city departments and our residents, and they are doing that,” Carter said.

Not that anyone needs to feel too sorry for Tomes, the former director of the Office of Technology and Communications. He collects a salary of $156,000 salary as the mayor’s chief innovation officer, a newly created position, compared to his replacement’s pay of $140,000.