[nfbmi-talk] System 7 issues

Larry Posont president.nfb.mi at gmail.com
Wed Dec 15 10:36:47 CST 2010


National Federation of the Blind of Michigan

20812 Ann Arbor Trail

Dearborn Heights, MI 48127



December 15, 2010



Dear Jo Ann,



Below are 2 emails from 2 of the most dedicated people in the MCB.  They are speaking out about one more system within MCB that is 
broken.  As you are aware, much of the relationship with RSA is data driven.  That is, the agency performance is measured and 
evaluated in quantitative measures.  There are few, if any qualitative measures.



The RSA recently completed a monitoring report which was a very poor reflection on the agency.  As you read the comments from Karyn 
Silky, you can sense her frustration as she tries to do her work and cannot do it efficiently and meet the demands of the 
administrative management information system (System 7).  As she points out, even the accounting is broken.  She cannot charge costs 
to the proper accounts.  If these are not caught and manually corrected, RSA will, again, find that MCB is misappropriating funds. 
The bottom line here is that System 7 is failing.



If that were the only major administrative problem in MCB it would be very serious and demand immediate and drastic action. 
Unfortunately, this is only one among at least 4 other systems that have failed within the past year.  Or should I say, more 
correctly, which have been reported in the past year.  Certainly the monitoring report covers a broader time span and shows ongoing 
mismanagement by the Director.



Here is a brief recap of some of the failed and broken systems at MCB:



  1.. 37 MCBTC staff are sitting idle and did so all last week at a cost of more than $75000/week, because there was inadequate 
planning to anticipate issues that may arise in commencing a major construction project.  This project has been in some stage of 
planning since around 2005; it did not sneak up on anyone.  This failure alone ought to be enough to demand drastic action from the 
board.  It is easy to predict that Pat will blame Melody Lindsey, Christine Boone or Sherri Heibeck.  He will not ever take 
responsibility for anything.  Who is accountable?


  2.. The Business Enterprise Program is in meltdown.  With 15 facilities on the bid line and not enough blind people trained to 
fill these positions it is just going to continue to cause major problems for MCB.  Sooner or later, there will be a major incident 
someplace which will create public relations problems and possibly attract negative legislature attention.


The last BEP training class of only 8, had no one in charge.  Trainees were left to sit unsupervised with no assignments and no 
oversight.  An interpreter at $40/hour was allowed to sit while the person for whom they were to interpret had no activity.   Fred 
Wurtzel, the retired BEP administrator called James Hull and offered to supervise the class during John McEntee's absence.  No 
teacher was apparently better than a 20 year veteran.  There have been talks of early retirements for years.  It could be 
anticipated that such an event would occur, yet there was absolutely no planning.  This is difficult to understand, since placements 
of blind clients are down and there allegedly very few jobs, except there 15, today in the Business Enterprise Program.  Who will 
take the fall for this.  Will anyone take responsibility?  Will anyone be held accountable?  Certainly not Pat Cannon, Heaven 
forbid.



  3.. The RSA monitoring report showed a monumental lack of oversight and numerous instances of violations of the law and rules.  It 
is alleged that RSA is wrong and MCB is not to blame.  It is doubtful if this argument will hold water.  Consumers have brought many 
of these issues to the attention of the Commission Board, the MCB director and various staff people over the years.  Some of these, 
consumers could not easily detect, like misappropriation of funds by serving ineligible clients below the age of 14.  Pat alleged in 
a meeting with the NFB that he provided a copy of the preliminary monitoring report to you, Jo Ann, more than a year ago.  You have 
denied having a copy.  I'm not sure of the truth, here.  It certainly appears that Pat is, again, dumping responsibility on you and 
not taking his own responsibility.  Who will be blamed for this? Will it be Leamon, the MCB Board, and the counselors or, as we 
heard, it is RSA's fault.  Amazing!


  4.. Back to System 7.  This is the very heart of managing the MCB.  RSA will use data from System 7 to evaluate the agency 
performance.


  5..


  6.. Yesterday, in the Services Delivery Design Team meeting staff expressed much dissatisfaction with System 7 and MAIN. it was 
mentioned that blind staff, after how many years, now, still cannot  do many of the administrative tasks which most state employees 
must do either as a regular part of their job or as incidental parts of carrying out their duties.  For example blind staff in state 
government cannot even complete their own time sheets, let alone do a large number of tasks required for state jobs.  The Commission 
may become the only place where blind people can work if they need to use MAIN. The whole "MAIN" system is inaccessible and Pat 
cannon is the state ADA coordinator.  Michigan is at risk for a giant ADA suit such as the ones in Arkansas and New york.  These 
states had exactly the same problem with their statewide accounting systems.  Is the Governor aware of this threat?  Pat Cannon 
cannot even advocate for his agencies' constituency, himself or anyone else it seems.  Who is at fault for this system failure?  It 
must be Connie Zanger, right?  She has been doing the job for the past few months and did not fix it.  Or, could it be Sherri 
Heibeck?  She was in charge for several years.  Or is it Libera?  Did they follow the MCB specifications incorrectly?  Or, is it 
DTMB for not monitoring the system progress.  Oh, how about Pat Cannon?  Could he, as administrator be accountable?  No, he is no 
computer guru, so it must be someone else.


These are just 4, (did I say "just" 4?) items that, in most places of employment just 1 problem of the magnitude of these would have 
caused major disciplinary action, that are plaguing MCB  Yet, given all these, you just gave this man a satisfactory job rating. 
This seems inconceivable.



How about some other items like the firing of Christine Boone on false pretenses with no MCB Board oversight, though the board is 
the direct supervisor of the Director and P.A. 260 calls for such oversight, 2 instances of breaking and entry into the MCB office 
where computers were stolen, allegations of misuse of travel by a staff person, questions about BEP inventories, questions about bep 
judge shopping resulting in overturned administrative hearings?  How many more do you need?



Read both Bernie's and Karin's messages.  They are afraid of reprisals.  Pat Cannon has managed by bullying and intimidation.  Why 
should an employee be afraid to report problems with the software they are depending on to do their jobs?  This is the very software 
the agency will depend on to report accurately to RSA to account for the $20 million the agency is entrusted with each year to serve 
blind people.  Fear is the management style of preference and as you can see from the list above it is not very effective as a 
strategy.  When will someone take responsibility?  Are blind people so inconsequential that a person earning more than 120000 per 
year is allowed to behave in any manner they choose wit impunity?



It is up to you.  We are depending on you as the legally appointed body to oversee the Commission to take charge.  When will this 
madness stop and who will stop it?



Sincerely



Larry Posont, President

National Federation of the Blind of Michigan

517-482-1800

Email: president.nfb.mi at gmail.com

Web page

www.nfbmi.org



Subject: RE: System 7 issues

All,

Good afternoon.

Is this another case of Manager's making decisions WITHOUT ANY INPUT OF

STAFF?

I can't even count the number of times we have just shoved stuff down the chain,

(in our case the West Region) to Field

Staff and

Administrative Support

.

What affect does this have on the overall push down to us; to increase Competitive

Closures?

There most surely is POLITIC with this latest decision to revamp System 7?   It must

have to do with funding to LIBERA?  Appease RSA?

Does anyone hear, or read of staff and

administrative support

 input to the latest from Libera?  Does anyone care about this

Staff

; BUT, particularly here in the West Region?  Kisiel and I do!  Some of the West

Staff may not agree with me; and that's OK.

How much more can this agency from Commissioner's, right down thru the "THE CHAIN

OF COMMAND" ask of this

Staff?

For one time can we be straight and honest to the hardest worker's we have?  OK;

worker's may not be a good title but is this how MANAGEMENT sees it's

front line employees

?   Sherry Gordon, Lisa Kisiel and the writer have always tried to put our

STAFF first.  We tried

but maybe never enough

, to stand up to what we felt was right?   I always lived with FEAR, i.e., what can

"they" do to me?  And, I am a former Colonel in the United States Army.

I have sat by for many days now; first thinking WHAT CAN THEY DO TO ME if I respond?

  In good

 conscience I have to

!  I have the highest of respect for the professionalism that Karyn Silky and ALL

STAFF of this agency bring to the table.

For so many years I supported the Director's approach which began upon arrival in

1999.  As a Manager I became a learning person as was suggested to me, not by my

Boss then; but the Director.  Eleven years ago I honored that attempt.

It pains me to see after these eleven years, that I have to ask;

have we made any progress

?  THIS IS A BURNED OUT FIELD STAFF in the West Region.

BERNIE P. KRAMER

West Region Manager

Michigan Commission For The Blind

350 Ottawa NW

Grand Rapids, MI

616-356-0183

Subject: System 7 issues

Julia,

First, thanks for being patient with all of us as we struggle through this mess.

My comments below are not directed toward you, please know that.

My first question is why can't we be allowed to view all consumers who are in the

System?  I needed to check to see if someone from the other side of the state was

currently open etc. for a new referral that came in with the same first and last

name, and I was not able to view any case information because I wasn't assigned to

the case.

If the response is that the counselor assigned to the case must change it, then this

is just not acceptable.  What if the counselor/teacher doesn't do it in a timely

fashion?  What if the person assigned to the case has retired?  Doesn't Libra understand

how this complicates service delivery for consumers?  Not everyone sits at their

desk 8-10 hours per day - most, if not all of us, are out in the field for the majority

of the week.

Secondly - why can't our support staff be able to do IPE amendments for counselors/teachers?

Apparently the counselor/teacher assigned to the case must do the IPE amendment,

approve it then our support staff can follow through and do an authorization.  Again,

this is not allowing us to do our jobs in a timely manner.  It's not that support

staff are actually writing the auth - it's that some of us might call/email in a

request to have support staff input the information into system, with all the particulars,

when we can't access or get to the system for various reasons like being on the road.

If timely service delivery is being asked of staff, this problem does not make it

very feasible.  It's insane that all of the methods we used to have in the old version

aren't still there.  The new requirement to go into the IPE and Amendments and date

when services were rendered and the outcomes is also a huge issue.  How are we supposed

to know when this has been done if we didn't have the case when original services

were planned?  This process does not make our system "efficient" - it is taking an

incredible amount of time for staff to even do a simple IPE amendment.  Case note

entries should document that services were rendered.  Sounds to me like someone doesn't

want to review case files to get this information and want a "quick fix".

I'm concerned that management does not have a full grasp on how difficult this "upgrade"

has made our jobs.  I would suggest that those supervisors without case loads sit

down and try to muddle through this mess and get things done in a timely fashion.

I mean actually try to write an IPE amendment, try to print one out and see what

happens, try to do an authorization, add a new consumer, try to find an existing

consumer etc. . .   and do this without having all the rights that you likely would

have.  The upgrade is not acting like it did in training nor is it working like it

did during the testing phase.  I'm appalled that there doesn't seem to be an upper

management statement being made to Libra about the urgency of fixing these issues

if not taking us back to the old way of doing things.  If it is being done on the

Director or upper management level, it would be nice for staff to know that this

is happening - communicate with us on what is being asked to be fixed or corrected,

let us know that you are all supporting our concerns.  I know that I am speaking

for most if not all of my colleagues when I say that we are fed up, tired and angry

with what has been occurring.

My last issue is huge and has been asked of Libera already, but is creating a serious

problem - staff (all staff) must be able to plan and do authorizations from the appropriate

accounting codes.  Can't anyone see that when authorizations are being done, they

are being pulled from AARA funds versus VR because it can't be changed?  What about

YLV students - what if they are VR and we need to do both YLV authorization as well

as a VR service?  It won't let you do this.  Why are we being required to do ILOB

plans when only IL was supposed to have plans.  While I'm on it, what is the definition

of an IL consumer versus a homemaker?  When do we serve someone as IL and not VR

homemaker?   This question was asked during the testing phase of the upgrade when

we learned there would be a split in the funding for IL/ILOB.  That was months ago.

How can you implement a new approach to fund and serve IL/ILOB without defining for

us what that means?  Leamon, you must address this issue because there will be and

possibly are consumers out there not getting services through general IL who have

the right to services and/or are being put in the wrong program.

This "upgrade" is not an upgrade - it is a completely new system.  Upgrades only

fix minor issues - not create disasters.

I feel sorry for whoever will be in charge of gathering financial data at the end

of Fiscal 2011 because the way things are going, nothing will be accurate.

My appeal to all staff who are trying to use this system is this - if you are struggling

with all of these issues, let management know directly via email or phone calls.

Specific issues must be identified to them and how it is impacting your job, how

long it is taking to do tasks (literally track the time) is absolutely necessary

in order for users of the system to get our point across.

I might be putting my neck on the line sending this, but frankly, I don't care anymore.

Karyn


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