TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Florida consultant with a background in managing information technology for businesses is now overseeing computer projects and systems for most state government agencies in Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback announced Monday.
Jim Mann, 58, from St. Augustine, Fla., assumed his new job on Oct. 31, and he'll be paid a salary of $150,000. But just hours after Brownback introduced Mann as the new chief information technology officer Monday, an online newspaper report raised questions about the academic degree he holds.
Brownback's administration is combining two high-ranking information technology jobs that had been vacant, though Secretary of Administration Dennis Taylor also held the title of chief information technology officer since Brownback took office in January.
Brownback also issued an executive order telling information technology directors and staffers for executive branch agencies outside the higher education system that they now report to Mann's office.
Both Brownback and Mann said they want to make state computer systems more efficient, less costly and more uniform across state agencies. Mann said, since taking his job, he's counted 27 different email systems across state government, and Brownback said he wants better computer-system coordination across state agencies.
"To date, we really have not worked as a team on information technology, and we've got to get better at this," Brownback said during a Statehouse news conference. "This is one of the key areas of how we can improve the efficiencies within state government."
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Mann received his bachelor of business administration from an unaccredited institution, the University of Devonshire. The governor's office later said Mann attended the University of Maryland in the 1970s and received his degree after studies with the University of Devonshire from 1993 to 1995.
The institution was not listed in an online database of accredited institutions maintained by the Washington-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
The administration did not make Mann available for an interview after The Capital-Journal posted its report online. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag, said Mann was hired he had more than two decades of "top-flight" work in the private sector.
"Information technology is a constantly changing field where the best preparation is private sector experience," she said.
Mann's job in Kansas will combine the roles of chief information technology officer and chief information technology architect, whose function under state law is to propose projects, technology standards and management policies. Together those two jobs had combined salaries of nearly $177,000; Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said the governor may need to seek legislation to make the combination official.
Mann started a consulting business in Florida after leaving the chief information technology officer's job at Service Brands International, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based services franchising company in 2010. He resigned the same year he joined the company; he and the company said they had different philosophies about how to handle information technology.
Before that, Mann owned and ran a business marketing, direct mail, design and communications business, and he is a former vice president of Havi Foodservice Worldwide, a supplier of distribution and other services to companies such as McDonald's and Starbucks Coffee Co.. He was credited with developing supply chain applications for both.
Mann said Kansas has a "huge opportunity" to make its information technology systems more efficient and cost effective.
"If you look across the entire state and all the technologies and dissimilar systems that are out there, it's an excellent challenge for me to start combining things and leveraging those technologies," he said.
Kansas governor: https://governor.ks.gov/