ST. PAUL, Minn. – As the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) disaster persists, the former Minnesota IT Services executive overseeing the project refuses to take any responsibility for the failure.
Paul Meekin, chief business technology officer for Minnesota IT Services, was fired last month over his involvement in the troubled MNLARS rollout. MNLARS was launched by Minnesota IT Services last July. The system has cost $93 million and continues to rise as the project faces more challenges.
Last week, an investigative report by Everett and VanderWiel law firm was released which interviewed 20 individuals involved in the MNLARS projected. The interviewees called out Meekin’s management and communication as a driving factor behind the failed rollout.
One of the more troubling findings of the report claims Meekin knew of several issues before the system was set to go live, including that testing may not be complete before the launch, but “did not exercise reasonable diligence in addressing the concern.” Investigators also interviewed Meekin, who denied prior knowledge of the failures, and said placing the blame on him “is not fair.”
On Tuesday, Meekin appeared before a joint meeting of the Minnesota House Transportation and Finance Committees, continuing to defend his connection to the project and refusing to take the blame for the failed rollout. Meekin said the report’s attempt to blame him for the failure was “so fundamentally misguided that it totally misses the point that MNLARS and other systems … can teach us.”
“There must be a full analysis of MNLARS so that we can learn what worked and what didn’t – to better improve how state government delivers IT systems,” Meekin said. “We will continue to see very damaging impacts to the people of Minnesota if the Legislature and governor don’t dig deep into the many roots of the many problems with state IT.”
Meekin did not take questions during the hearing, but IT Services Commissioner Johanna Clyborne was grilled by legislators looking to get to the bottom of the issue, with some admitting it was not just about Meekin’s failed leadership but Minnesota IT Services as a whole. Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles said his office will produce a report by 2019 on “what went wrong” with MNLARS and why the governor and Legislature was not aware of the problems brewing below the surface.