San Francisco grand jury examines city Information
By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service
May 26, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Two civil grand jury reports issued
yesterday fault San Francisco for maintaining a sluggish and inefficient
information technology system, except when it comes to protecting
The first report urged San Francisco officials to find the money
to improve their individual computer and telephone networks, while
the second report commended the city on its handling of sensitive
"We need to get into the 21st century, and right now, the
city is lagging," grand jury member Jean Ellingsen said yesterday.
"It's embarrassing to be so close to Silicon Valley, and
... for our city government to be lagging."
Among the findings in the first report, the grand jury criticized
the city for ignoring previous recommendations to create a competent,
central information technology agency. The grand jury found the
city's acting central agency, the Department of Telecommunications
and Information Services, to be unreliable, expensive and rife
with employee problems.
The department's director, Chris Vein, agreed with the grand
"The report supports much of what I've been pushing for
in the city," Vein said yesterday. "I've spent a lot
of time with the mayor and the Board of Supervisors trying to
implement these policies."
The report calls for the mayor to create a chief information
officer position to oversee all of the city's technology systems
and training. The city is also encouraged to help smaller departments
without the proper funding to upgrade systems, which in some cases
are run on software like Windows 97, Ellingsen said.
For the most part, the grand jury urged the city to stop outsourcing
the management of its information technology, except in the case
of handling personal information in financial transactions, which
was the subject of the second report.
San Francisco has generally done a satisfactory job of protecting
individuals against identity theft, mainly because larger, established
companies specializing in credit card sales are hired to handle
agency transactions, according to grand jury member Hal Feuchter.
The investigation began in response to a slew of large personal
data leaks around the country and in the Bay Area. In March 2005,
for example, the records of almost 100,000 graduate students,
past applicants and alumni at University of California, Berkeley
were compromised in a computer breach.
The grand jury confined the investigation to computer theft within
five different agencies in San Francisco. It found no instances
of city-caused identity theft.
Both reports are available online on the San Francisco government
Web site http://www.sfgov.org.
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