They have $100 million running through their coffers, but you've probably never heard of COT

07/12/2018 04:11 PM

Nearly $100 million flows through their electronic accounts, but little is known about the Commonwealth Office of Technology, or COT, the agency tasked with keeping up with supporting cabinet and other state government agency IT services.

The COT appears to have run an overage of over $20 million for FY 2017 alone, much of it apparently financed by “enterprise assessment” fees. Bevin administration officials within the Finance Cabinet, who had been responsive to open record requests, never returned an explanation when asked on Wednesday morning about the assessment fees and where the overage money ends up.

The $20 million overage is part of nearly $100 million that makes its way through the accounts at COT, which has an interesting history of being shuffled around the confines of state government cabinets, including the most recent reorganization via legislation and executive orders that has placed the organization back within the purview of the executive branch.

In addition to the assessments, there are also millions generated for COT through computer fees charged to Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches of government. (A breakdown of those figures is available at the bottom of this report)

The Commonwealth Office of Technology was officially seated under the Finance Cabinet under the administration of Gov. Steve Beshear, D-Kentucky, in 2012. However, it was again split from the Finance Cabinet by executive order of Gov. Matt Bevin, R-Kentucky, in December of 2017. Bevin created a Chief Information Officer position within the Executive Cabinet that is also the COT executive director.

In the 2018 legislative session the General Assembly gave significant power to this non-elected official via House Bill 244, making the COT the “single information technology authority for the Commonwealth,” codifying Bevin’s executive order in law.

The legislation, which passed the House and Senate without a dissenting vote, requires the executive director of the Commonwealth Office of Technology to serve as the chief information officer for all agencies within the executive branch; include in the duties of the executive director, the approval of technology acquisitions prior to any procurement.

Charles Grindle, a retired U.S. Army colonel is the information officer for the Commonwealth; as such he is the executive director for the Commonwealth Office of Technology. Grindle’s pay outpaces that of his colleagues in other cabinets – Grindle brings in $160,000 a year, according to a salary search through Kentucky’s transparency portal. In perspective that’s around $30,000 more a year than other cabinet heads, like Justice Cabinet Secretary John Tilley, or, Education and Workforce Secretary Derrick Ramsey, who both earn $137,000 a year.

Grindle came into his role at the beginning of 2018, before that Jim Barnhart was the acting CIO. Barnhart is now the Deputy Chief Information Officer for COT, he earns $118,000 a year.

Since the 1990’s state government agencies staffed IT specialists, a trend that carried until 2003; As agencies staffed the specialists the executive branch began to create the Governor’s Office for Technology in October 1999, by merging several agencies into one.

In 2003, the office transitioned again from the Governor’s Office to the Finance and Administration Cabinet, where it became known as the Office of Technology. Since that time Gov. Ernie Fletcher, Gov. Steve Beshear and now Gov. Matt Bevin have reorganized the office by executive order — the latest example by Bevin removing COT from the Finance Cabinet and making it a standalone agency.

Download a look at the data for the computer services fees collected in 2017, obtained by Pure Politics via an open records request: COT 2017 service fees.pdf


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