Mass. CIO Louis Gutierrez resigns

He's upset about the state legislature's lack of funding for IT projects

Massachusetts CIO Louis Gutierrez has resigned his post, effective Nov. 3, saying concerns about state funding for IT projects led to his decision.

Gutierrez had been involved in the state's efforts to move to the OpenDocument format (ODF) within executive branch agencies. Gutierrez took over the CIO job earlier this year after his predecessor, Peter Quinn, stepped down in December 2005. At the time, Quinn said he was resigning in part because of his own concerns about a lack of funding for state IT projects.

In a letter yesterday to his staff, Gutierrez said that when he joined the state's Information Technology Division (ITD) he looked forward to many challenges. But one thing he said he never anticipated was the Massachusetts Legislature's decision not to fund most of the state's IT projects.

"But we're entering October, and to the best of my understanding there is no date established to act on the funding, or a date to agree on a date, despite many efforts continuing up until this week," he said in his letter. "Much of what I do (and much of what ITD does) is about these investments -- deciding among them; working with our team to administer their finances; working with our team on the architecture, infrastructure, or frameworks to get the most out of shared investments; trying to understand how to fit lots of demand into tight capital budgets."

Because he doesn't expect the Legislature to act on the IT bond funding anytime soon, Gutierrez offered his resignation to Thomas Trimarco, the Massachusetts secretary of administration and finance

"It is my hope through this resignation to provide one additional window onto the situation, which I trust will someday be resolved, but which stands to set the state's IT investment program back many steps the longer the lapse persists," he said.

In his letter, Gutierrez said he believes that "IT innovation in Massachusetts state government ran out of steam in August, when the legislature closed its formal session without action on the IT and facilities bond." He went on to say that the Legislature's failure to act endangers morale and contributes to "a sense that IT does not matter, or does not matter enough, to obtain adequate financing."

When Gutierrez stepped into his role as CIO, he also stepped into a controversy about moving the state's agencies away from Microsoft Corp.'s digital document formats and to ODF, an open, XML-based format used by a variety of products, including IBM Workplace and StarOffice. Gutierrez's predecessor was the first to champion that move.

Although Quinn became a hero to the open-source community, he also attracted a level of public scrutiny that disrupted his private and professional life and played a role in his resignation. Quinn increasingly found himself defending the plan to adopt ODF in the face of opposition from Microsoft Corp. and a collection of legislators, government officials and special interest groups.

In May, Gutierrez said that third-party plug-in software that allowed Microsoft Office users to open and save files in the OpenDocument format would meet the state's Jan 1, 2007, deadline for using open and standardized document formats.

Then in August, Gutierrez said that the state would postpone the Jan. 1 deadline to roll out office-productivity applications that have the ability to natively save files in ODF. Instead, the state will, on a near-term basis, adopt the plug-in strategy to fulfill its policy calling for executive-branch agencies to make use of ODF.

A spokesman for Gov. Mitt Romney said Gutierrez did not feel he could adequately do his job without better support from the legislature. "The Legislature's failure to act on the bond bill has been demoralizing for everyone," said Eric Fehrnstrom, communications director for the office of the governor. "Louis felt he could no longer do his job without funding support from the Legislature."

Fehrnstrom said the resignation will have no effect on the state's ODF policy.

Carol Sliwa contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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