Regan Pays Price For Loyalty

Connecticut's CIO is one of seven state officials replaced by new Gov. Jodi Rell, though he says he's been asked to stay on to help with the transition.
Loyalty has cost Rock Regan his job as CIO of Connecticut.

Connecticut's new governor, Jodi Rell, last week axed seven top state officials, including Regan, who were closely aligned to her predecessor. John Rowland resigned July 1 amid allegations of graft, a federal probe, and a mounting drive to impeach him for accepting gifts from friends and business executives. Regan, in an interview with InformationWeek on Tuesday, said Rell asked him to stay on for several weeks to help with a transition to a CIO, who has yet to be named.

Because of the importance of technology in running state government, Regan says he isn't surprised that Rell would seek to name her own CIO. "I don't feel bad about it," Regan says. "One of the qualities a governor needs in a cabinet official is explicit trust to carry out his or her agenda. A governor needs to have his or her own person in there. I was John Rowland's person. She needs to put her own thumbprint on her administration."

Regan, who turns 44 on Wednesday, traces his friendship with Rowland to their childhood--the ex-governor is four years older than Regan; the departing CIO says Rowland's younger brother was among his best friends. Rowland tapped Regan as Connecticut CIO seven years ago; only the CIOs of Indiana and South Dakota have served longer as state CIOs.

Though she fired him, Rell nonetheless praised Regan in an interview published Tuesday in the Hartford Courant, calling him "a great guy who has done great things." But Rell said the state needs to make improvements in its computer operations. "We haven't moved that quickly in government services," Rell said in the interview. "He moved, but there's more to be done. And it's not easy to do. ... We need management. We need leadership, and we need to move."

Regan responds that the state budget shortfalls that hit Connecticut and other states last year had limited new IT initiatives. Connecticut this past year slashed its IT staff by about 20%, meaning that the main goal of the CIO was to just keep existing technology services functioning.

Despite the recent slowdown in IT initiatives, Regan considers his tenure as a success, pointing to the deployment next year of the gigabit-speed, fibre-based Connecticut Education Network as one of his prime accomplishments. Originally designed to link state schools and libraries, the network will become the backbone for homeland security and law-enforcement networks as well. "It will be one of my great legacies," he says.

What some would term a failure, an ill-fated attempt to outsource most of Connecticut's IT operations, Regan considers one of his successes. With much objection from labor unions and others, Regan headed a Rowland initiative in 1997 to outsource nearly all of Connecticut's IT work to EDS, but final terms between the state and IT-services firm couldn't be reached. Regan contends the debate over outsourcing raised the Legislature's and public's consciousness about the importance of IT at a key time, making it easier to get backing for the state's year 2000 remediation efforts and other technology projects. "There were a lot of bruised feelings, but the debate put IT on the legislative map," Regan recalls. "Before then, the Legislature never talked about technology; now they do. We finally had [an] audience."

Regan, an aeronautical engineer by training--he was a program manager at helicopter maker Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. before becoming CIO--is job hunting. He says he wouldn't mind being a CIO again. "I have a wealth of background in the field," says Regan, former president of the National Association of State CIOs. "I know a zillion people. I'm not in a hurry. I'll try to find something I enjoy and fits me."

His hope is that the coming year won't be as rough as the past one. "It's been difficult for everybody," he says. "It was a terrible budget year as the economy tanked and we had to lay off 20% of the IT workforce. But keeping things running was a priority. We tried getting everybody motivated, and then the scandal hit.

"John Rowland is a great friend of mine. I make no excuses for him. But it's a sad thing seeing a friend in trouble going through this. He was a friend before he became governor, a friend after he was elected, and he's a friend now. It's been a tough year."

Such are the rewards of loyalty.

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