Friday, June 24, 2005

The Honeywell “honeypot” …

This is the fifth column in a series that started at a column called “Wirth-less”.

Louisiana has had 11 constitutions; more than any other state. The present constitution took effect on January 1, 1975. Later that year, the Super Dome in New Orleans would open, and Edwin W. Edwards would be re-elected Governor of Louisiana.

Now that we have set the time frame, let us get back to our story.

The jobs being offered at LIPA were unclassified because salaries required by computing specialists were still way above anything with which civil service pay grades could compete. It was still a pay cut for me from my academic salary of the year before. On mentioning this, I was told they could pay no more, but they could give me a state car. The car was a “land barge,” a giant Pontiac sedan which had seen better days.

A decade earlier I had worked for IBM, and as a university computer center director I had worked with DEC equipment. Louisiana was committed to Honeywell. I mean really committed. Edwards’ Commissioner of Administration, Charles Roemer II, went to jail over what the Feds thought may have been an over-commitment to Honeywell.

As I remember it, the computer was already up and running when I got to Charity, it just had nothing productive to do. There were a few state programmers, willing to work at civil service pay grades, and an army of consultants doing essentially the same things for triple the pay.

New Orleans is in many ways a small town; I knew almost all of the consultants. I had worked for a well-funded software startup in the late 60’s, IDS, which did not survive to the 70s. The consultants here were from a successor to IDS, less the bloated executive corps that had dragged it down, but with some political connectedness.

The consultants were there primarily to fill out time sheets, and they would occasionally write a program or two. The hierarchy there made it seem that the consultants were in charge, and the state programmers, who were working pretty hard, were merely functionaries.

Well now the state had someone (namely me) with authority over the consultants, and we clashed early and often. My attempts to manage the budget would clearly call for cutbacks, and I tried to convince higher-ups that the consultants’ ranks should be thinned.

I was not originally warned to leave them alone, but the message was delivered forcibly on my suggestion that we begin replacing consultants with state programmers.

Tomorrow – A loss of innocence


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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