Opinion Columns & Blogs

Mann isn’t the only personnel problem

Before you know it, Jim Mann will be forgotten, a blip in Kansas government history. But in his very short time on the state payroll, Mann may have performed a genuine service.

In the future, Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is likely to put its hires through a more rigorous vetting than it gave Mann, who lasted just nine days as chief information technology officer for the executive branch.

Mann, a consultant from Florida, resigned Tuesday, a day after the governor introduced him at a press conference and just hours after the governor defended the hire to Statehouse journalists.

Mann, it seems, did not have a college diploma, at least not one earned from an accredited institution of higher learning. Rather, his diploma was from a “degree mill,” a shadowy, campusless business whose main graduation requirement is a payment.

At least two states, Texas and Michigan, prohibit counting a degree from the University of Devonshire, Mann’s alma mater, toward education requirements for state jobs.

After the media challenged his credentials, Mann did the only thing he could do, which was to apologize and resign, noting that his credibility had evaporated and that he was no longer an “asset” to the administration.

In his initial handling of media inquiries, the governor also did not represent his office well. Although he introduced Mann, with some fanfare, as the person who would lead the state through a revamping of technology systems for the executive branch of government, Brownback demonstrated that he really did not understand the scope of the project at hand.

Mann was hired to update and bring greater efficiency to the information systems for the equivalent of a diversified yet integrated, multibillion-dollar corporation. The governor’s statement that a bona fide degree was not necessary for the job indicated a profound misunderstanding of the demands of information technology today.

Mann’s job entailed more than rebooting the governor’s desktop PC. Moreover, in recent decades education in computer information systems has evolved, in step with advancements in technology and the greater demands of complex businesses and organizations.

The governor readily admitted that his staff did not vet the academic section of Mann’s resume, which suggests our state government also hasn’t followed the human resources profession into the 21st century.

The governor’s staff members set him up for this embarrassment by not doing their due diligence — just as they lapsed in telling him that the state would still qualify for national and regional arts funding without a state arts commission.

As the governor draws a lesson from this misstep, he might consider that Mann isn’t his only personnel problem.