Data Processing Board stands in way of savings, officials say

Board members say they are frustrated over their inability to get together.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Issues that could result in long- and short-term savings for Mahoning County aren't being dealt with because of the Data Processing Board's continued inability to meet to make decisions, two county officials say.
Stephen J. Stanec Jr., director of the county's information technology department, and Auditor George J. Tablack expressed their frustrations to the commissioners Thursday.
By law, the commissioners may establish a data processing board that consists of the county treasurer, recorder, clerk of the courts, a commissioner, two members or representatives of the elections board and the county auditor.
The county's DPB members are Commissioner David Ludt; Tablack; Recorder Ronald Gerberry; Treasurer John Reardon; Clerk of Courts Anthony Vivo Jr.; Michael Sciortino, elections board director; and Thomas McCabe, elections board deputy director.
The law states no county office shall purchase, lease, operate or contract for the use of any data processing equipment without the board's prior approval.
Phone services
Stanec said one of the issues the board needs to address is evaluating and possibly consolidating all county phone services under a master agreement with one provider, which could provide an estimated savings of $1.2 million over a seven-year period.
Stanec, who soon will be leaving the county to accept a new job in Palm Beach, Fla., said the agreement with the board is pending.
Six data processing board meetings have been set and canceled since April 29, mainly because the board's members have been unable to coordinate their schedules to attend.
Tablack said he wanted the board to return to meeting regularly to discuss technology and other issues that could save the county money in the short and long terms. He said in his 18 years as auditor he couldn't remember so many meetings being canceled.
"Either we get back to meeting regularly and cooperating ... or the commissioners can abolish the data processing board, and any agreements that need to be approved can be brought directly to the commissioners," Tablack said. "As you can see, I'm a bit irritated."
Full-time director
Another issue the data board needs to address, Tablack and Stanec said, is whether the county should hire a full-time telecommunications director, who would have a salary of $35,000 during a probationary period.
This director would be given 30-, 60- and 90-day goals, which would include identifying all data/telecommunications vendors and accounts for the county; developing regular usage and service reports for all telecommunications; and developing a long-term integration plan of all county agencies' disparate phone systems.
The data processing board essentially would run the county's phone system, and the telecommunications director would have the necessary skills to manage it as one aspect of the county's voice and data system, Tablack and Stanec said.
Commissioner John A. McNally IV had sent e-mails to Stanec requesting information on those issues and others. He particularly wanted to know from Stanec about the cost savings of the master agreement.
Stanec wrote the commissioner that the proposed SBC master agreement would provide an estimated $1.2 million savings over a seven-year period.
Schedule conflicts
All board members said they are frustrated they haven't been able to meet. Gerberry and Vivo said their schedules are flexible enough to meet when given sufficient notice. Ludt said he is also usually available to meet.
Sciortino said he and McCabe couldn't meet on some of the scheduled dates because they had been in Columbus to discuss pending litigation involving continued use of the county's vote scanning machines.
Sciortino added that he and McCabe continue to support the board, and that all board members need to be at meetings to make decisions.
He added, however, that he's somewhat confused by Tablack's suggestion that he and McCabe be removed or step down from the board because they haven't been able to attend some meetings.
Gerberry said he's unaware of any board member having a problem with Tablack and Stanec's proposals. He said he is concerned about hiring someone else when his office and Reardon's have had to lay off personnel and reduce hours because of the county's funding crunch.
Reardon said he had forwarded to Tablack his meeting availability. The last meeting that was scheduled was set at a time that he was not available, he said. In one instance, board members were informed of one meeting two days before it was held.
"I also responded that since this was a large board of busy people that he [Tablack] give us a couple week's notice," Reardon said. "I feel it is imperative the full board meet, also with the two commissioners who aren't on the board, to fully discuss the concerns of Mr. Tablack's proposals."
Tablack surmised that some board members don't want to meet because they are "paranoid about having their phone and Internet usage on county time analyzed."
Tablack said the county has a policy about phone and Internet usage, and the matter of adhering to that policy is the officeholder or supervisor's responsibility.
His concern, he said, is protecting the communications network from viruses.

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