by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Governor Glenn Youngkin is having trouble keeping filled the top posts of a couple of his top priority agencies.
Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA)
A little background information is in order. Nelson Moe had been the Chief Information Officer (CIO), or director, of VITA since 2015. During that time, he faced two main challenges. First was the messy unwinding of the controversial long-term contract with Northop Grumman and implementing, in place of one vendor, a multi-supplier service model. There were major problems with the transition, as pointed out in a 2019 report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC). By 2021, JLARC seemed satisfied that VITA had staffed its key top-management positions and implementation of the new model was completed.
The other challenge was enabling the bulk of the state’s workforce to switch to working remotely when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the closing of state offices. As noted by JLARC, “VITA also provided critical assistance for state agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic.” JLARC also reported that more than three fourths of agencies surveyed were satisfied with VITA’s assistance in making the transition to remote working.
One of Youngkin’s first personnel moves was to replace Moe with Phil Whitmer, who had been the chief technology officer for the state of Kansas before leaving for the private sector.
Soon after Witmer’s appointment was announced, Jonathan Ozovek, the chief operating officer (COO) of VITA announced he was leaving the agency. The COO is a key position and JLARC had noted with satisfaction in 2020 that it had been filled. In his announcement, Ozovek made it clear that he was leaving because Moe had not been reappointed.
Less than a month after his appointment had been announced, Witmer, the new CIO, announced that he was leaving the job. The Governor’s office offered no explanation for the abrupt departure. However, the word around Capitol Square is that Witmer had assumed that he would be able to stay in Kansas and carry out his CIO duties remotely. (That would be the ultimate in telecommuting!) Apparently, when the administration informed him that it would be necessary for him to direct VITA in person, he said, “No, thank you” and resigned.
Youngkin then appointed Mike Watson, a longtime VITA employee and its director of security, as acting CIO. In April, the governor announced the appointment of Robert Osmond as CIO of VITA. Osmond had been the technology and business-strategy chief at the Virginia Department of Transportation.
In the meantime, Demetrias Rodgers, who had been the deputy COO under Nelson Moe, was named acting COO when Ozovek left. Today, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Rodgers had submitted his resignation and would be leaving the agency on May 20. There was no mention as to who would be moved to that position.
In addition to managing a complex and vital agency, the CIO faces some enhanced challenges. There is a general consensus, as voiced by JLARC, that the state needs to beef up its cybersecurity defenses. To meet these challenges, the agency needs to have stability in the top leadership posts.
Department of Motor Vehicles
In his announcement establishing the position of Commonwealth Chief Transition Officer, Governor Youngkin directed him “to begin his review of all government agencies with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Employment Commission.” He went on to say, “in recent years, the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) have fallen short of performing at the high standard set by our citizens.”
He announced that he was appointing Peter Lacy, who was the director of the Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles, as Virginia’s new Commission of Motor Vehicles. Today, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Indiana had fired Lacy, one month before he was supposed to leave for Virginia, for being drunk on the job. Specifically, “he appeared intoxicated during an executive meeting, slurring his words, acting confused and making an off-color statement.” Macauly Porter, the governor’s press secretary, said, “Mr. Lacy rescinded his acceptance and the Secretary concurred with that decision. He informed Mr. Lacy the Commonwealth rescinded the offer of employment.”