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Topic: County Controller quits - software problems a money pit

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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Genesee County controller resigns after three weeks on the job
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Molly Young | myoung7@mlive.com By Molly Young | myoung7@mlive.com
on December 30, 2016 at 6:30 PM

GENESEE COUNTY, MI -- After barely more than three weeks on the job, Genesee County's controller has resigned.

Karen Ruddy - who, according to her resume, is a certified public accountant with over 20 years of experience - started her job as Genesee County's controller on December 5.

She submitted a letter of resignation to the Genesee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Dec. 27, effective immediately.


Genesee County Controller Keith Francis has submitted his resignation stating new opportunities, but also his displeasure with the results of Tuesday's election.

Ruddy's letter cited mainly the county's impending "cumbersome" software upgrades, which she says would not serve even the most basic functions for the job.

"Lastly, I consider myself a problem solver, but I have joined this disastrous process too late in the game to stop what I consider a huge mistake. Each day I have tried to sort this out, but continue to get inaccurate information and have to beg for processes to be run," Ruddy said in the letter.

The new system does not offer basic financial reports, which is 90 percent of what the finance department uses to do its job, according to Ruddy's letter.

Instead of recognizing the shortcomings, the software company "continues to pass on any problems with the system onto the shoulders of the county," suggesting that the county needs to change how it operates in order to conform to the software, the letter alleges.

The letter also says Kent County switched to the same system about six months ago, and now struggles to get "invaluable reports that are required by the State of Michigan for grant compliance reporting."

"In all of my years as a CPA I have never seen a software that is so cumbersome to implement but also does not conform to standard accounting and internal controls," the letter reads.

Ruddy says she does not want to put her reputation on the line with the implementation of this new software, which she urges the county to hold off on implementing until it is certain it will allow them to "continue to pay vendors, transfer funds to cover payroll and to keep compliant with the grant and audit requirements."

Ruddy says that her advice is "overshadowed by other department heads and some commissioners."

Jamie Curtis, chair of the Genesee County Board of Commissioners, said he agrees with Ruddy and respects her decision.

When Ruddy began in her new role, Curtis suggested the county find a way to cut its losses with the software company as it was becoming clear that it wasn't the right program for the job.

"I don't care what the county had already expended. The program wasn't going to meet our needs...I didn't want to use a failed system and teach all these department heads to this new system. I wanted to have a user-friendly, good system," Curtis said. "We needed to pull the plug and stop it."

Curtis further reiterated that it wasn't the staff that had difficulty learning the new software or adjusting to change - it was simply that the software wasn't going to meet their needs.

"The letter eludes to the fact that they don't want to be blamed or for people to say that they were just resistant to change, and that couldn't be further from the truth. They are very qualified people. They just didn't see this software doing what they were supposed to do," Curtis said.

In terms of finding a new controller, Curtis said it is unclear whether the board will refer back to the same applicant pool they had when Ruddy was hired, or if they will open it again for new applicants.


Last edited by untanglingwebs on Wed Feb 08, 2017 11:51 pm; edited 3 times in total
Post Sat Dec 31, 2016 7:04 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Officials debate new software that will cost county millions to implement
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Molly Young | myoung7@mlive.com By Molly Young | myoung7@mlive.com
on January 13, 2017 at 8:15 AM, updated January 13, 2017 at 8:16 AM
genesee county administration building.jpgMLive.com | File

GENESEE COUNTY, MI -- Past and present county officials are at odds over it's new CGI A360 software, which the it is paying millions of dollars to implement.

The impending switch was the leading cause of Controller Karen Ruddy's abrupt departure after three weeks on the job. In her resignation letter, Ruddy called the software "cumbersome" and a "huge mistake."

But some Genesee County commissioners disagree, including new board chair Mark Young. The new software forces county workers to adjust the way they do things to the industry's best practices, and will ultimately allow them to better manage money -- it's just going to take some adjusting, he says.

"We are working with a company that has a stellar reputation. It's called CGI, and they're the fifth-largest financial management software integration supplier in the world. They have a lot of experience doing this stuff," Young said. "I definitely think we're headed in the right direction. The reward is, by following through with this, it gives us a lot of opportunities to better manage the money -- to see where every cent is going -- and we can account for every cent versus some of the archaic ways we're doing things now."

Young said once everyone is properly trained, the new software will require a lot less manpower to create a more accurate budget.

"It's going to give us all kinds of wins down the road, but we have to get through some of the growing pains here," he added.

But not everyone was as optimistic about the software.


After less than a month on the job, Genesee County's controller has resigned.

At the time of Ruddy's departure, then-chair of the Board of Commissioners, Jamie Curtis, agreed with Ruddy, saying he respected her and her decision.

Curtis said at the time he believed the county should cut its losses.

"I don't care what the county had already expended. The program wasn't going to meet our needs ... I didn't want to use a failed system and teach all these department heads to this new system. I wanted to have a user-friendly, good system," Curtis said. "We needed to pull the plug and stop it."

Curtis no longer serves as a commissioner after being defeated in the 2016 Democratic primary by Ellen Ellenberg, who was ultimately elected as commissioner in the November general election.

The software was expected to cost a total of about $6.3 million over five years to implement, according to country records. The county secured a grant from the state for nearly $1.5 million, leaving about $4.9 million of the total cost to come from the county's general fund.

Additionally, training consultants were hired at a price of about $2.8 million, and the county is expecting two grants, totaling about $1.5 million, to help offset that cost.

The county may also incur additional costs if go-live dates get pushed back.

On Monday, Jan. 9, the Finance Committee gave preliminary approval to push back the go-live date for some departments to April, which was expected to come at an estimated cost of $520,000.

The Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on whether to give final approval during its Tuesday, Jan. 17 meeting.

County officials say they're working closely with Kent County, which switched over to the software within the last year.

Ruddy's resignation letter mentioned Kent County's transition to the software, saying it now struggles to get "invaluable reports that are required by the State of Michigan for grant compliance reporting."

But Kent County officials have since disputed Ruddy's claim, saying the vendor has worked alongside them for a smooth transition.

"Our experience in the transition to the new Financial Management System (FMS) has been as expected: difficult at times, but we continue to work closely with the vendor to resolve issues as they arise.," a Kent County spokesperson said in a written statement to MLive-The Flint Journal. "County staff have been able to complete needed reports for compliance, and to date, we have not had any problems that would be an issue to vendors or suppliers. We have had a dedicated team in place as we have implemented the new FMS, and we are confident that the end result will be a success."

While the new system has it's challenges, Young says the county has a lot of support and will continue to work out the kinks.

But now, they are once again on the search for a new controller while they do it.

"I'm just disappointed that (Ruddy) didn't feel it was a good fit for her. I understand she had some concerns on it," Young said. "I wish best of luck wherever ends up."

The county Finance Committee gave the initial go-ahead on Monday, Jan. 9, to create an ad hoc committee to vet controller applicants.

The job listing was expected to post the same day. The new committee would be expected to make a recommendation to the board regarding the controller position.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:53 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Pegge Adams
January 2 at 8:05pm

I see that the latest Controller's resignation has hit the news, and I feel it is important to weigh in. This is a very long post, but if you want to know about this, please read the whole thing.

On the last day of my employment with the county, I was in the Administration Building, doing fact finding on Controller Ruddy's abrupt departure and the A360 software. Her letter was the first inkling of a problem with the program, and I was pretty shocked. It was taking longer to implement than expected, but there were staffing problems in the Controller's Office, so that was logical. With the prior Controller resigning just before the new budget and with problems in other areas of that office, it was not that surprising. But at no time in the past year did I hear, from Mr. Francis, Mr. Curtis or staff, that the program was flawed. A memo from Mr. Francis dated January 26, 2016 states that he recommends "acquiring the CGI Advantage 360 Software as a service (SaaS) system", based on his evaluation of the system. At no time during the rest of his tenure this past year did I hear "oops, that was a mistake" or even "I have some misgivings".

I spoke at length with key department heads yesterday, and none of them agreed with Ms. Ruddy. I approached all of them with "Don't give me a political answer, tell me what you really believe". They all felt that the system, although not quite ready for January 3 launch that was scheduled, would be operational very soon, perhaps as little as a week, a month at the outside. They are at the troubleshooting phase, problem solving, and testing phase, and one of those problems is to configure reports to comply with what is needed at the department level. This is not an off-the-shelf user friendly accounting software. It is an extraordinarily complex system that offers fully integrated functions between departments, offering greater efficiency and transparency. This means it is a system that needs to be customized to do exactly what we want, in terms of both functions and reporting.

Some of that is done. Payroll, Human Resources, and Purchasing, for instance, have developed their report designs. Other departments still need substantial support to be comfortable.

Ruddy was very frustrated that she couldn't pull the reports she wanted. But when you haven't initiated a system, you are in problem resolution and troubleshooting phase. When you can't pull the report you want, you note problems and sit down with IT to discuss report design and get it configured. And while that's being worked out, you pull what you need off the existing system.

It is understandable that she was feeling overwhelmed. Those who had been working with the system for a year never felt it was easy. Trying to grasp it a few weeks, new to the job, feeling like she was responsible for initiating on January 3 was a lot to tackle. If she would have asked me, I would have said support those who have been working on this, try to be very specific about report design and modifications you feel are needed, and learn as much as you can while performing other Controller functions. If it is really a bad fit for you, then give us notice and do your best until we can find someone else. But it seems bad form for a professional to leave abruptly, and I was shocked she chose to handle her concerns in that way.

With all of that in mind, my conclusion is that we did not make a mistake choosing A360, but we may have made a mistake in our choice of Controller. Sometimes what seems like a good fit at the interview level doesn't translate to a good fit in the job.
Post Tue Jan 17, 2017 1:35 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

The County with Resolution 17-005 authorized the two assistant Controllers. Joy Haynes-Hawkins and Kristi Primeau, to authorize Change order 5 to the Implementation and Support Services Agreement regarding the A 60 Project. This change order, initiated in the Finance Committee on January 9th and was expedited on January 17th. The change order is 8 pages long and is expected to cost $520,000.

Note, this is the 5th change order. So, who was the individual or individuals that initiated the original contract? Did the vendor misrepresent the initial specifications or did the persons originating the contract not understand what the project needed to be implemented.

I disagree with the assessment of Pegge Adams that the problem was with the controller who left after weeks. She may have observed deeper problems. The program was to be functional by January 3rd, but there may be more change orders and delays in the future.

Another possibility is someone got a kickback. Can't ask the Prosecutor to investigate as he is now Corporation Counsel. Also the Sheriff is too busy trying to increase his pay and the Commissioners were afraid to raise their salaries and that of the Sheriff before the new Board of Commissioner took office.

It takes an elected official to ask the Attorney General to investigate and the county commissioners are too busy at the trough to do so. Where is the transparency? Don't they believe in ethics?
Post Wed Feb 08, 2017 4:26 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Detroit free press

Genesee County controller quits over software
Associated Press 3:47 p.m. ET Dec. 31, 2016

FLINT, Mich. A top number-cruncher in Genesee County government has quit, less than a month after starting her job as controller.

Karen Ruddy told county commissioners that new computer software is a mess. She says she considers herself a "problem solver" but she's not willing to risk her reputation.

Ruddy is a certified public accountant. She started her job as controller on Dec. 5 but quit Dec. 27.

Jamie Curtis, chairman of the Genesee County Board, tells The Flint Journal that he respects Ruddy's decision.

Ruddy says software upgrades won't handle the most basic functions. She says the software company is putting any problems on the "shoulders of the county."
Post Wed Feb 08, 2017 11:00 am 
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