Lovick vetoes council, reclaims tech department

EVERETT — Snohomish County Executive John Lovick on Friday moved to take control of the county tech department next year, disappointing some other elected leaders.

Lovick vetoed the County Council’s decision to keep the county’s tech department under the county auditor through 2017. That overturned an ordinance the council passed Feb. 12 on a 3-2 vote.

The latest actions followed last year’s leadership crisis at the county, in which the council took the extraordinary step of stripping Lovick’s predecessor, Aaron Reardon, from his role in overseeing the tech department.

“Even though I was willing to honor the effects of the 2013 emergency ordinance, I believe the justification of doing so has expired,” Lovick wrote in a nearly three-page veto letter. “I firmly believe that the Department of Information Services should be reassigned to the office of the executive now, not a year from now.”

The tech department became a political football a year ago, as evidence mounted of abuses of power by Reardon and some of his staff.

Auditor Carolyn Weikel agreed to assume control of the department, which includes a nearly $20 million annual budget and 85 positions.

After Lovick was appointed in June to take over for Reardon, Weikel asked for more time to follow through with reforms in the tech department. Lovick said the department should be restored to the executive’s authority, as intended in the County Charter.

“I’m disappointed because I had a lot of positive initiatives I wanted to work on,” Weikel said Friday.

They include continuing work to mend fences with other county departments, improving the way the county handles public records requests and examining data-storage costs.

Council members who supported extending Weikel’s oversight said they found her arguments more persuasive than Lovick’s.

“The reason I voted for it is that Carolyn had a plan, and never once did the executive talk about what he wanted to do with the department,” Councilman Ken Klein said. “I think major changes need to be made.”

Klein said he believes the county potentially could save millions of dollars by implementing changes such as contracting to store data on the Internet cloud, rather than maintaining its own servers.

“My concern is that they’re not going to see these changes that need to be made,” Klein said. “I have no reason to believe that they’re going to happen under the executive.”

Council Chairman Dave Somers said he was disappointed in the executive’s decision, calling it not in the best interest of the department or the county. Similar to Klein, Somers said that Weikel had articulated a clear vision for managing the department, while Lovick had not.

Council members Stephanie Wright and Brian Sullivan, however, have sided with Lovick, arguing that management of the department fits best under the executive now that the leadership crisis under Reardon has passed.

Under the county charter, the council could override Lovick’s veto, but that would require four votes.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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