June 11, 2002 6:45 AM PDT

Key state official in Oracle flap resigns

The head of California's Department of Information Technology has resigned amid the furor over the controversial software contract with Oracle.

Elias Cortez, the state's chief information officer, submitted his resignation to Gov. Gray Davis on Monday. He will leave office July 1. In his resignation letter, Cortez encouraged Davis to continue to support the department, saying "I believe that not having some oversight program in place would result in the high risk of potential major IT failures.

"I am hopeful that the information technology governance issues this state still encounters will be holistically and strategically solved by your administration and the legislature," Cortez wrote.

The state legislature had declined to continue authorization for Cortez' department, saying there were serious questions about its performance. Davis had suspended Cortez on May 2.

Cortez was a central figure in the Oracle flap, breaking down in tears while testifying last month about problems with the state's software contract. He was grilled by a committee investigating why California approved Oracle's large, no-bid contract.

In his testimony, Cortez said he was an advocate of the Oracle contract but also noted he was being made a scapegoat. "I'm being held accountable for other people's mistakes," he said.

Cortez is the fourth state IT official to leave after a highly critical state auditor's report was released in April. The report said that the $95 million contract with Oracle could cost California $41 million more than the state's existing contracts rather than save it millions of dollars, as Oracle argued it would.

State employees have testified before California's legislature that Cortez dismissed complaints from other officials regarding the contract, saying there was not enough time or resources to fully evaluate the contract before a May 31, 2001, deadline mandated by Oracle.

 

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