Update in Progress: County board set to move on resolutions after Microsoft SNAFU

By Shane Nicholson 
Managing Editor 

Fresh off finding out they owe Microsoft $283,000, the Winnebago County Board is set to review a set of five resolutions that backers hope would avoid any future surprise costs incurred by the IT department.

After revelations that the department, under the watch of Chief Information Officer Gus Gentner, had overseen the installation of hundreds of unlicensed copies of Microsoft software on county machines, board members went to work to bring proposals to the table that would see the CIO position become a full-time post in the county’s hierarchy by the beginning of 2017.

The position is currently contracted by the county, and last year Gentner made $113,000 to manage the county’s IT work.

But a clause in that contract, renewed in 2013 by a voice vote, alleviates Gentner of any liability in this case. That left some in the county government outraged, with one county board member telling The Times, “This is nothing less than a massive f*** up.”

Board chairman Scott Christiansen downplayed Gentner’s role, saying in an email to county board members, “In any case, Mr. Gentner did not personally install or configure any software.”

One insider said it was “unbelievable” that county employees were allowed to install or upgrade software on their systems without IT personnel involvement.

“You’re going to just open the door, let them do whatever they want?” they said. “This is why systems have an ‘admin’ mode. This is why you have an IT department. For people to say no one was responsible for this, that’s a joke.”

Board members derided a system that had left them with questions unanswered. John Guevara, R-19, said that full-time attention and oversight would provide the county with the best services available, and help protect against future mistakes.

“There have been times that something was requested and it either wasn’t provided, wasn’t provided in a timely fashion, or was provided under supervision,” he said. “Those days are over. We’re not governing from budget year to budget year anymore. The steps we’re taking are to increase transparency and improve the system permanently.”

“The resolutions are pretty straightforward,” Guevara added. “The reason they are resolutions (asking for regular mandatory reports) instead of something the board just asks for is because we think it’s better that the information be regularly provided.”

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