Mukilteo mayor fires staffer over loss of computer data

MUKILTEO — The city wound up getting nearly all of its data back after an April computer crash, but the episode has cost a city employee his job.

Dave Varga, Mukilteo’s information technology director, was fired last month by Mayor Joe Marine.

“He was the manager of that department, his No. 1 job was to protect the city and our information, and he failed on that front, and we need to move forward,” Marine said.

Varga was let go June 18. Varga was out of the office working on a fiber-optic line when the system crashed April 4, officials have said. Another IT employee had left the city several weeks earlier.

The city later paid $36,000 to a Minnesota firm to retrieve the data, and about 95 percent of it was recovered.

The city now is looking at spending $171,500 on a new system, but is considering other options as well. The City Council plans to discuss the issue at its meeting July 16.

In the interim, the city has hired KDH Consulting of Lake Forest Park to manage its information technology and is using a tape system to back up the data, officials said.

It’s possible that Varga won’t be replaced and the city will hire a contractor for all its IT services in the future, Marine said. It’s also possible the city won’t buy an in-house system but will go to a more “virtual” way of storing information.

This way, the system will be in the hands of IT professionals who will be up to date on the latest methods, rather than the city having to continually update its own system and pay a staff member for ongoing training, Marine said.

“I think I’ll get a better product and save the city money by contracting the need,” he said.

The city would still have an in-house help-desk person and arrange with the contractor to send a person to City Hall when the employee is out, Marine said.

Councilwoman Jennifer Gregerson said she’s glad the data issues are being addressed, but said not all the blame can be laid at Varga’s feet.

“It’s definitely true that our IT manager was the responsible one for that department, but I think there was a problem with lack of oversight over all of it as well,” she said. “I think the mayor and city administration betrayed the public trust.”

Marine said IT staff are hired to be the experts.

“Regardless of who’s running it, there will be a whole lot more questions asked in the future,” he said. “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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