Special Reports

A guide to the key players

A who's who guide into the series, who are the techies, the leaders and the skeptics of Tacoma's new computer system.

THE TECHIES

Karen Larkin

Assistant public works director

In her temporary assignment as project manager, she assured City Council members that the conversion was on track as it neared start-up. She pronounced it a success weeks after it was turned on, even as users were complaining of problems. She received $8,500 in performance pay for her role leading the project. Even after Larkin returned to her public works post, she took several city-paid trips to help sell other cities and businesses on SAP software and TUI Consulting.

David Otto

Business Information Systems Department director

During the search process, the city’s top techie questioned the notion of unifying the city with one network using the same software and favored staying with specialty software for different departments. As head of the new department to service the network, one of his first actions was to ask the City Council for dozens of more employees.

THE LEADERS

Mark Crisson

Tacoma Public Utilities director

The city’s computer conversion saga started when TPU began searching for a replacement to its customer service system. Crisson championed expanding to integrate almost every function of both TPU and City Hall. Before start-up, he discounted warnings of problems. He considers the conversion project a success that ultimately will make utility billing and operations more efficient.

Ray Corpuz

City manager, 1990-July 2003

The cutting-edge technology of the SAP system – and the recruitment of TUI’s headquarters – fit Corpuz’s vision of Tacoma as “America’s No. 1 Wired City.” Months before the system start-up, the City Council fired Corpuz amid the scandal surrounding Police Chief David Brame, who fatally shot his wife and himself in April 2003. Soon after he left his post, Corpuz went to work at TUI Consulting. He no longer works there.

Jim Walton

City manager, July 2003-present

Longtime deputy city manager who replaced Corpuz. Walton didn’t help choose the system, but presided over its start-up in fall 2003. Despite numerous complaints during the first months, Walton approved final payments to TUI in January 2004. He admits there have been problems and that there wasn’t enough training but says the city will see a payoff one day.

THE SKEPTICS

Steve Marcotte

City finance director

As a member of an internal steering committee during the system installation, Marcotte raised issues about the need for more training and deviations from the original project blueprints. During the rocky system start-up, he challenged glowing reports and questioned final payments to contractor TUI. Despite his criticism of a poor implementation, he now says SAP will eventually prove a good system for the city.

Julie Anderson

City councilwoman

Anderson joined the council in January 2004 as the new system came under fire. Anderson heard from frustrated employee users and grilled computer department leaders who requested more money and personnel. She led the charge for a top-to-bottom review of the performance of the computer system and the department that services it. That review could happen in some form, but it’s unclear when.

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