Oracle database deal leads to resignations, allegations

Oracle database deal leads to resignations, allegations

Fallout over a controversial database deal involving Oracle and the state of California has resulted in the resignation of two officials and an order to a state agency involved in the deal not to shred any documents. The governor's office also suspended the agency's director.

Late Thursday, Barry Goode, legal affairs secretary for the California governor's office, issued a statement saying that he had received an unconfirmed report that the Department of Information Technology (DOIT) was engaged in "possible document shredding."

Goode went on to say that he had called the DOIT, told it to determine if any shredding was ongoing, and if so, to cease it immediately. Additionally, he contacted the attorney general's office and notified it of the report. Then, the California Highway Patrol "was dispatched to secure all shredders and trash at DOIT."

Also Thursday, Governor Gray Davis announced that he had suspended DOIT Director Elias Cortez.

"We have no idea if any documents were shredded," the governor's spokeswoman said. "At just the hint that it might have happened, we called up the attorney general and California Highway Patrol."

The DOIT, along with the Department of General Services (DGS), was instrumental in securing an exclusive US$126 million deal with Oracle. While advocates believed that it would mean lower database costs for California, state Auditor Elaine M. Howle slammed the deal on the grounds that it would actually end up costing the state more than standard database licenses would.

The deal has resulted not only in a firestorm of criticism from lawmakers, but also in the DOIT's key legislative advocate withdrawing his support for reauthorizing the agency this summer. Davis has also asked Attorney General Bill Lockyer to review the Oracle licensing agreement for any violations of state law. In a letter to Lockyer, Davis said recent news stories and the auditor's report "raise serious questions about how state departments decided to enter into the agreement."

There have been career casualties. Barry Keene, the head of DGS, resigned on April 26, saying in a letter to the governor, "The Oracle controversy was due mainly to an error of judgment in which I relied upon data not properly validated and facts incompletely disclosed. That the misjudgment occurred the day after a serious and destabilizing development in my marriage does not excuse it."

Arun Baheti, director of the state agency responsible for creating the My California Internet portal to help residents cope with rolling blackouts, also tendered his resignation to Gray.

In his resignation letter, Baheti said, "While I was briefed on the Oracle contract and supported the concept of an enterprise licensing agreement, it is apparent in retrospect that I should have more vociferously raised questions about the details. ... Today, there are people who would use me as a tool to attack you and the important work of the administration. I refuse to allow my service to you to become a distraction from the real work of government."

Attempts to get comments from the DOIT were unsuccessful, and a spokesman who was working on a response earlier today said he couldn't send one out via e-mail because DOIT's servers had been seized.

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