Pulaski County Government Offices to Be Responsible for IT Costs, County Council Raises Questions

Pulaski County government offices with technology needs will now have to find money to pay for them out of their own budgets. For the past few years, those expenses had come under the IT Department’s budget, but it was recently disbanded, after it apparently used up all its money for the year. Last week, the commissioners officially voted to have individual departments cover their own IT costs, until they can reach a long-term solution.

Commissioner Kenny Becker said there’s simply no money left in the IT budget. “Every office has usually got a little something that they can squirrel stuff out of,” he said, “and hopefully, we don’t have no disasters until the end of the year.”

The issue was raised by Clerk JoLynn Behny. The Clerk’s Office and the two courts are getting new computers at no cost to the county, as part of the change in court software, but Behny said she needed someone to install them. She said she was directed to have DeGroot Technology do the work, but the company said it wasn’t allowed to, since it wasn’t an emergency, prompting her to seek the commissioners’ guidance. Behny noted that she was able to find money in her budget.

The issue came up again during this week’s county council meeting. Council members agreed to let Superior Court transfer funds out of various line items to cover the cost of computer installation in its office.

But beyond that, Council Member Kathi Thompson said the council needs more information about where the IT money went, before the problem can be corrected. “How many of the software expenditures that were made early in the year was he unaware of?” she asked. “How many of those expenditures did we not have appropriately accounted for in the budget and now, that budget money is gone? Because we don’t know. We don’t know where that money went. We don’t know. The departments don’t even know what they spent from the IT budget.”

However, Auditor Laura Wheeler said she didn’t have time to put the information together and invited Thompson to go into her office and get it.

Last week, Commissioner Becker explained that DeGroot was helping the county until the IT situation is worked out. But during this week’s council meeting, Member Brian Young asked when exactly that decision was made and how much the company is getting paid. “Is he being hired on a per-case basis by the departments?” he asked.

Wheeler indicated that was the case, but other council members thought it was the commissioners’ decision, as part of the elimination of the IT Department. Commissioner Jerry Locke explained that DeGroot was asked to fill in when former IT Director RB Walters resigned in 2017 but has apparently continued to help since then.

Council members went through the process of making and voting on a motion to have IT included on next month’s meeting agenda, after Thompson said her requests had repeatedly been denied. The topic of an IT contractor is also expected to come up during next week’s commissioners meeting.