August 27, 2004

Former San Leandro City Employee Quits in Disgrace from San Jose

Wandzia GryczWandzia Grycz, San Jose's Chief Information Officer, resigned on August 8, 2004, after it became clear that a city audit of an $8 million Cisco contract would include findings that city officials allowed Cisco to design the network for the new building, provide the list of 18,000 Cisco parts to be purchased, and help prepare officials to defend the plan before the city council.

On Wednesday, August 11, 2004, Wendy Walker, San Jose's Deputy Chief Information Officer, followed in Grycz's footsteps and resigned her position as well. Walker was previously the Administrative Officer for the Information Technology Department and the IT Masterplan Project Manager for the city of San Jose.

In June 2004, Grycz defended the contract before the city council and said that Cisco had nothing to do with the bidding process. During the audit, Grycz and some members of her staff allegedly lied to the investigators.

Earlier in the year, Grycz was featured in Cisco's IQ Magazine, where she was quoted as saying, "That's a big selling point [state-of-the-art technology] when you're trying to hire and retain people....We're able to say we've made a commitment to this kind of network and show how it's going to benefit the employees personally as they serve our community."

Grycz had served as CIO since December 2000. She received a raise of $9,858 in 2002 on top of her $164,302 salary. Previously, she served 12 years as Information Services Manager and Assistant City Manager for the city of San Leandro. Rayan Fowler is currently the Information Services Manager for the city of San Leandro and Ed Schilling is the Assistant City Manager.

So if Grycz left her $174,000-a-year job after these allegations, one wonders what happened while she was at the city of San Leandro. When San Leandro Mayor Sheila Young was asked about Grycz, she replied, "I always found her to be extremely talented and capable....Everybody had to change their thinking in the late '90s to keep up with all the things coming on the market, and she put us on the right road even though she left....I never found her to not put the city's interests in the forefront at all."

Update 9/10/04:The auditor report is available from the City of San Jose's Office of the City Auditor. Thanks to Mark for letting me know it is available online.

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at August 27, 2004 2:16 AM | TrackBack

Dear Editor:

I am a former I.T. Director of a California City and disagree strongly with the implications of your article regarding Ms. Grycz.

I have read the audit and believe that another view is warranted. If you are willing, I will send you an article I just wrote on the subject. I think it may change some minds.


Mark Hamilton

Posted by: Mark Hamilton at September 10, 2004 1:19 PM

S.J. Technology Controversy
Another View

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed …by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." H. L. Mencken.

One could not pick up the San Jose Mercury in the last month without reading of a City official or reporter claiming there was "favoritism", "collusion", and "lying" over an RFP for a major City computer/communications network. Newspaper articles and editorials were bannered with inflammatory headlines and freely painted lurid characterizations of a ‘fixed’ bid process, presumably orchestrated by the City technology leader and her staff. The hair pulling and wailing (in particular by the City auditor) became so intense a police ‘probe’ was launched (since ended) to investigate the auditor’s false allegations of office electronic snooping by the RFP “lynchpin”, Wandzia Gryz (then San Jose’s Chief Information Officer).

As a former Information Technology Director in a California municipality (recently retired) I was transfixed, not by the purported ‘scandal’ but at the escalation of ordinary administrative issues into an "endless series of hobgoblins", in this case often imaginary and contrived.

In order to fairly evaluate these events, one only needs to critically read the City Auditor’s report.

The audit report had six findings, three of them favorable to staff but ignored by the media. Those findings were that: "…the NCC Converged Network overall evaluation process was on balance fair, objective, and accurate...(and) complied with City Code requirements for contracts (and)…the resulting contract is not required to be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder...(and) there is no evidence that the former Deputy Chief Information Officer violated the City’s Revolving Door Policy."

Yes, contrary to the apocalyptic tone of media, as well as City official public pronouncements, apparently the RFP did meet City process requirements for bidding, evaluation and contracting, and the most of the relevant charges by losing vendors have been refuted (e.g. manipulated scoring).

However, the audit had three overall negative findings and a minor caveat in regards to the evaluation process – even if over sensationalized by the media.

A couple of them did not amount to much: a caveat over confirming one element of the qualification of a bidder, and an additional finding regarding a single memorandum directed to the City Council for it’s lack of “accuracy and completeness” regarding vendor bid totals – an exaggeration made irrelevant by the fact that the contract was legally awarded on the basis of quality, technical standards, and other non-price factors (and no matter how its calculated the price disparity between the top two vendors was never more than three or four percentage points).

The auditor’s remaining negative ‘findings’ were the only substantive objections, and were related: that Cisco’s participation in the RFP process was inappropriate, and the standardization on Cisco as the equipment vendor and specification’s provider was in violation of City code.

Unfortunately, the auditor seems ignorant to the ubiquitous and best practice for I.T. Managers to solicit technical information and design help from equipment manufacturers. No I.T. staff person possesses the expertise or intimate system knowledge of a particular vendor to provide detailed equipment/network specifications and design. If Cisco (or a Cisco equivalent) was the general equipment/systems standard or preference (as it is for most of the industry) then of course it was warranted, wise, and necessary that they provide staff with technical answers, participate in meetings, provide BOM (Bill of Materials), and that they (and bidders) understand all small business issues. Getting free advice and partnering with 'the standard’s creator' (not a bidder) before, during, and after the bid is not collusion, its darn good management.

So for all the official hysteria, it seems the auditor's critical finding really boils down to a single remaining criticism: "The City’s standardization on Cisco equipment and other system requirements in the RFP was not in accordance with SJMC Section 4.12.149." and therefore ‘collusion’ (providing advice) could be inappropriate.

Really? San Jose municipal administrative code 4.12.149 says,

"Where the (General Services) director has determined that it is required by the health, safety or welfare of the people or employees of the city or that significant costs savings have been demonstrated, standardization of supplies, materials or equipment is permitted and the specifications may limit the purchase to a single brand or trade name. Among the factors that may be considered in determining to standardize on a single brand or trade name are that: Repair and maintenance costs would be minimized; User personnel training would be facilitated thereby; Supplies or spare parts would be minimized; Modifications to existing equipment would not be necessary; Training of repair and maintenance personnel would be minimized; Matching existing supplies, materials or equipment is required for proper operation of a function or program."

Yet, the audit report took great pains to avoid the plain language of the prerogative of the Director of General Services and stated:

"Staff decided to standardize on Cisco equipment primarily because of concerns with warranties and maintenance when problems arise . . .The decision to standardize on Cisco was made because of the large existing City Inventory of Cisco equipment and technical staff’s familiarity with Cisco equipment for maintenance and troubleshooting purposes.

Although all of the factors staff stated, including the July 2004 document from the CIO, may be valid regarding RFP standardization to a single brand or trade name under Subsections A through F of SJMC Section 4.14.129, the City did not meet the threshold criterion to enable authorization of standardization. Specifically, staff did not demonstrate that the standardized equipment required in the RFP would produce a significant cost saving to the City. There is no documentation that staff ever provided such information to the GSD Director for consideration, as the SJMC requires, to support the extensive equipment purchase element of the RFP." (p 13)

The audit is oddly contrived to make an indictment of staff. Chapter 4.12.149 makes no mention of any requirement to meet a 'threshold criterion to enable authorization' nor does it state that 'documentation to the GSD Director’ would be required. If the General Services Director who consented to the RFP specifications was unable to predict the Auditor’s future invention of a requirement for ‘savings documentation’, he should be forgiven – after all, in the code he had the authority (not the CIO) to determine that expert testimony (the CIO) was a sufficient demonstration that either the 'welfare' and/or 'savings' (see the list of factors) warranted such standardization.

Beyond the Audit

After reading the audit, one is left with troubling impression, which is that this document was created to echo a political agenda, and was intended to frame well-meaning employee(s). Much of the management report reads like a brief by a prosecuting attorney relying on inventive language parsing and implied meanings to find ‘blame’. All too often it strains credulity trying to ‘lynchpin’ it to a single person, Grycz. (The auditor’s subsequent, and disproven, claim of being spied upon by Grycz via electronics reinforces this impression).

For whatever reason, the auditor didn’t the auditor didn’t see a far simpler and self evident administrative story:

“The City of San Jose, including all executive levels and related advisory boards, worked under a long standing and customary policy of standardization around CISCO or CISCO equivalency in applicable technology areas – at least for six or more years (prior to Grycz arrival). In that time the City bought and maintained CISCO equipment for its networks and communications, with the foreknowledge and approval of the City executives, and the Council routinely approved prior purchases for many years. With those standards in mind, under the direct purview of the Director of General Services (who administers the City’s ‘standardization’ and contracting requirements) and the C.I.O. an RFP was developed and reviewed by a General Service staff and a City attorney, and its contents confirmed with the City Manager and other executive staff.

While there were a few concerns expressed by employees over standards, most personnel (including management) assumed they were using an appropriate procedure and acted in what the believed the City’s best interest. The RFP was created and evaluated appropriately and in good faith. It was, at worst, a misunderstanding regarding the need for documentation on brand preference and became tangled debate over ‘authority’ vs. ‘process’ in San Jose’s internal/external politics.”

The City Council is right to be concerned about professionalism, including on how it handles its own administrative disputes and treats its employees. Unable to restrain itself in its enthusiasm for an immediate audit, or from making public statements before the official report, or in publishing the audit a several days before its ‘lynchpin’ can return to defend herself (at least in executive session) suggests that reform begins at home.

By “keeping the populace alarmed …by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins” over the Cisco preference, City officials have sent a clear message to their staff and prospective employees: your expert opinion is not trusted, if you error with an commonly preferred industry standard you will be investigated, and if you survive you will be quarantined.

Posted by: Mark Hamilton at September 10, 2004 2:21 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?