Cuyahoga County’s troubled IT Department could get a top boss for first time in 3 years

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cuyahoga County Manager Armond Budish this week named a candidate for the long-vacant CIO job: Andy Johnson, vice president of tech firm Diebold Nixdorf.

If confirmed by county council in the coming weeks, Johnson would be the county’s first IT chief since Scot Rourke left in February 2018. Since then, county executive Armond Budish has relied on on interim leaders often covering the tasks of several positions. And for the past year, two deputy heads have run the department in tandem.

Johnson’s appointment gives the county council its first opportunity to have a say in the most senior position in the IT department since January 2016, when Rourke was first appointed. The county charter requires the council to confirm the highest position in IT, but not deputy chiefs or other officials.

Johnson was vice president of Diebold Nixdorf’s digital program management office for two years. The company, headquartered in North Canton, is a multinational technology company serving financial and retail businesses. Prior to that, he was a consultant for Progressive Insurance, according to his resume.

In both roles and in a previous job, Johnson has worked on corporate resource planning projects, his resume says. Such projects aim to streamline disparate IT systems into a single system and make operations more efficient.

Cuyahoga County is in the middle of such a project, but it has gone on for years longer than expected at the expense of taxpayers. What was originally a budget of around $ 25 million has now climbed to $ 36 million and is counting, with millions more potentially needed for future phases of the project that were supposed to be operational years ago. . Much of the delay was attributed to leadership turnover within the IT department and elsewhere in the administration of Budish.

The county council, which reluctantly agreed to pay the rising costs, will likely ask Johnson questions about the project during its confirmation hearing next week.

If the appointment gets board approval, the two current IT leaders – Deputy CIO and ERP Project Manager Jack Rhyne, and Deputy CTO Andy Molls – will report to Johnson. His annual salary is said to be $ 225,000, about $ 11,000 more than his predecessor, according to a board agenda.

The Budish administration selected Johnson from a pool of 33 candidates, the agenda says.

Before Johnson’s appointment on Tuesday, it was not clear whether Budish would seek to fill the vacant post.

When Rhyne (previously a prime contractor on ERP) was hired on a permanent basis last July as deputy chief information officer, some board members questioned Budish’s decision to fill a number two position while leaving position number one vacant. They feared that this decision would deny them the possibility of confirming the direction of the department.

Budish, in response to those concerns, said his administration would test the arrangement. If a top leader proved unnecessary, Budish had said, he could ask the Council to abolish the post, or to confirm both Rhyne and Molls in their respective roles.

IT leadership was first unraveled in February 2018, when Budish put then-chief Scot Rourke on leave after being subpoenaed in a corruption investigation. Rourke was never charged with a crime, but Budish retained him as an unpaid employee for the next 18 months, while other IT officials tended to his duties. Budish fired Rourke in late 2019, days after board members publicly expressed concerns about his limbo status.

Rourke continued, arguing the county should have kept him on paid leave or allowed him to return to work. He requested payment of the salary and benefits he would have received had he not been placed on leave. His lawsuit cited part of Ohio law that states that leave without pay is limited to two months and allowed only in cases where an employee is charged with a felony.

The county settled with Rourke in February, accepting a payment of $ 245,000.

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