July 30, 2007

Mollis' Gold Plated Computers

Marc Comtois

I was blissfully away on vacation for two weeks (where I was again reminded that most people don't really care about politics, btw) but was greeted by this politics-as-usual bit in today's ProJo Political Scene column:

To fill the long-vacant position of director of e-government and information technology in his office, Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis hired William Barbieri, the former Rhode Island Public Transit Authority employee accused of using his state computer to send an e-mail urging his fellow RIPTA employees to support Mollis during the lead-up to last fall’s election, Political Scene has learned.

Mollis announced most of his staff roster in December, before his inauguration. The $93,480-a-year information technology position remained open until Barbieri began work in April.

Last July, Mollis’ opponent in the Democratic primary, Guillaume de Ramel, alerted the media to Barbieri’s e-mail. A RIPTA spokeswoman said at the time that the agency was considering disciplining Barbieri for violating RIPTA’s written policy on computer use, which stated that the computers should be used for RIPTA business only.

Barbieri — a resident of North Providence, where Mollis was mayor before becoming secretary of state — was a database systems manager at RIPTA, where he had worked since 1977.

Last summer, Mollis called Barbieri “a very good friend” and said Barbieri had done volunteer work for his campaign including designing the campaign Web site.

The secretary of state issued this comment through a spokesman Friday: “Bill Barbieri’s professional background as a network administrator and a database systems manager is second to none. When our two top IT staffers left for the private sector, I turned to a man whose talent I have complete confidence in.”

Isn't this what they call "patronage"? Are the computers gold-plated? And if that's the going rate for government IT work, I wonder how anyone in the private sector can hold on to them!

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Where was the 'national search' to find the best candidate for the job?

Posted by: Greg at July 30, 2007 1:20 PM

... um, for $93,000 a year, I'd have sent e-mails on my company computer talking up Ralph Mollis, she said wistfully.

Posted by: SusanD at July 30, 2007 1:43 PM

$8K per month doesn't sound remarkable to me, if in fact his credentials and experience are appropriate. It would be interesting to compare his duties and salary at RIPTA with same at SecState.
The problem with comparing RI gov't compensation to real world compensation is that in the gov't, so much of the compensation is off-books in public conciousness, as show by the OT and other bennies documented in today's ProJo. In the real world, this guy would be on call 24/7/365 and might get a year end bonus if things went well in the IT department. In the gov't position, will he collect OT for work beyond 40hrs per week? Could be worth more than the base pay.
Of course, the above ignores the screaming conflict of interest that should have had Mollis seeking someone else.

Posted by: chuckR at July 30, 2007 1:44 PM

Stop picking on Ralphy.

This is no worse than "Magistrate Harwood" or what-iz-name the new Superior Court judge whose main qualification is that he's been friends with Senate Majority Leader since 1st grade.

In other words, business as usual in "The State of Rhode Island and Patronage Plantations!"

Posted by: Tom W at July 30, 2007 2:49 PM

The sad thing is that absolutely no one is even mildly surprised about this. Do you think Barbieri will take RIPTA to work?

Posted by: Anthony at July 30, 2007 3:17 PM

For one, I'd like to see conservatives go after Mollis the way they go after other Democrats. Ralphie Boy is a thug, and from the looks of things, he's raising a little dynasty of 'em.

Posted by: Rhody at July 31, 2007 12:32 AM
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