Ethics board to review Philadelphia CIOs departure

Days after Philadelphia’s CIO announced plans to resign her postto take a job with a company that has done business with the city,Mayor John Street asked the board of ethics to determine whetherthe move violates city statutes.

Dianah Neff announced on Aug. 15 that she is leaving the CIO post that she has held since May 2001 tobecome a senior partner at Alpharetta, Ga.-based Civitium LLC, aconsulting firm that specializes in municipal wireless systems.

The company had done business with Philadelphia under two separate contractsuntil August 2005, helping the municipality create plans for a citywide wireless network.

Neff will remain employed by the city until Sept. 8. She willjoin the consulting firm later in the month.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office this week confirmed thatStreet has asked the ethics board to review Neff’s resignation butsaid that no wrongdoing should be implied by the review. Thespokesman refused to comment further on the matter.

In an interview this week, Neff said she is comfortable with theethics board review.

“It’s being overly cautious,” which is appropriate because themayor’s administration has been scrutinized over ethics issues, shesaid. Neff said that she has no problem with a review, adding, “Ibelieve there’s no issue here, and I believe that’s what they’llfind.”

Neff said that Civitium has not done any work for the city sincelast August. That work cost about US$300,000 and involved radiofrequency analyses to ensure that the planned wireless networkwouldn’t interfere with other systems, she said.

Neff’s resignation comes at a time when Philadelphia is stillenmeshed in negotiations with Oracle Corp. over delays in deployinga complex new billing system for its half-million water customers.The effort to develop and deploy the billing system, code-namedProject Ocean, has already taken three years and cost more thanexpected at $18 million.

The new system will replace a 30-year-old, custom-builtapplication that officials said isn’t capable of collecting all therevenue due to the city.

Neff’s first deputy CIO, Terry Phillis, has been named toreplace her.

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