Johnstown Common Council addresses state audit concern by approving IT support contract

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Johnstown Mayor Amy Praught speaks during discussion about an IT support contract with PNJ Technology Partners during a Common Council meeting, Monday, April 18, 2022. The resolution to approve the contract passed unanimously.

JOHNSTOWN The Johnstown Common Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a contract with PNJ Technology Partners for information technology support services, an area marked as a weakness in state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office March 2021 city audit report.

Mayor Amy Praught said contracting with a company was needed.

“It puts us in compliance with the state,” Praught said of contracting with PNJ. “We were not in compliance with the last administration. Now, we’re in compliance. We’re moving forward. We’re signing the contracts we need to sign. We’re doing business as usual and protecting the taxpayers by having these contracts and making sure we’re protected.”

According to Police Chief David Gilbo, who Praught has called the city IT contact because of his years of department IT and computer crimes experience, the city has been without an IT support contract for seven or eight years, instead working with a company, most recently ATEC Group, on a per diem basis. He said the city was being billed at the maximum for services usually included in an annual maintenance fee.

Past Leader-Herald reporting stated that the city paid ATEC $92,309 between Jan. 1, 2019 and Jan. 15, 2020. Under the contract approved Monday night, it will pay PNJ $1,650 per month — $750 for managing applications and resources on 30 devices, $750 for IT and network management and $150 for backup management.

Since Praught took office in January, she has made a point of inking contracts to address past issues related to finances and technology. In February, the council approved a phone service contract with Twinstate Technologies. Treasurer Thomas Herr took the same approach in November 2021 when he, still interim following the departure of Mike Gifford, signed a contract with Tyler Technologies for its software services. After Gifford departed, city officials were locked out of the old accounting software, which was used to handle nearly all city transactions with the exception of payroll, and did not have the login information. Herr said Monday that he and his deputy have been using Quickbooks accounting software since January and hope to be into the new system by July.

Gilbo said keeping passwords all in one place will be one benefit of contracting with PNJ. He said the contract checks a lot of boxes that the state was concerned about, including creating an IT disaster plan and more clarity involving the city’s file server backup.

“City officials did not adequately safeguard information technology resources to ensure personal, private and sensitive information was protected,” reads DiNapoli’s audit. “The failure to protect PPSI can have significant consequences on the city, such as reputation damage, lawsuits, a disruption in operations or a security breach. Auditors determined that city officials did not develop adequate IT policies and procedures nor provide IT security awareness training. City officials did not have a complete and accurate IT asset inventory. They also did not properly manage user accounts or ensure unneeded administrative and user accounts were disabled. Sensitive IT control weaknesses were communicated confidentially to officials.”

Gilbo said PNJ is cognizant of the major issues in IT systems facing public entities, whereas some companies may be more familiar with private sector systems, pointing to PNJ’s work with clients like the city of Amsterdam, which hired the company in August 2021 to resolve its own challenges.

The new partnership will also look into moving the server room at City Hall to a better ventilated location to avoid the server overheating, which Gilbo said will make things run smoother and save money in the long run, including on hardware.

Both the mayor and the police chief are looking forward to improved response time with PNJ, too. The contract says critical or high priority IT needs will receive an initial response within 15 minutes and be resolved within an hour and two hours, respectively. Medium and low priority tickets will receive responses in 30 minutes and be resolved within four hours. In the past, lack of consistency was an issue, according to Praught.

Gilbo said the consistency is especially important for his department which is constantly on call and cannot go long without any issue being resolved.

“I would rather make a phone call and make sure I get the right people,” Gilbo said.

Reach Andrew Pugliese at 518-915-0499 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ByPugs.

More: All NewsEverything Johnstown

By Andrew Pugliese

Leave a Reply