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City would share tech chief with Kaleida, but questions abound

The Brown administration wants to hire former IBM expert Luis E. Taveras as its chief information officer.

But questions surround the appointment because it turns out the city would be sharing Taveras with Kaleida Health. He would be a consultant for Kaleida while also developing a strategic plan for restructuring the city’s Department of Management and Information Systems to improve efficiency.

The budgeted amount for the position is $123,000.

Kaleida would match Taveras’ salary, said Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk.

But Franczyk and other Council members – who are slated to vote on the appointment at Tuesday's meeting – have questions about the legality of the arrangement and, if it's legal, how much time Taveras would spend doing city work and how the city's information would be safeguarded.

Councilman David A. Rivera has expressed concerns about how much time Taveras will spend between both jobs and how that would that be measured.

“How do we know we’re actually getting the time we’re paying for?” Rivera asked during a committee meeting. “How do we calculate or measure the time you invest in the City of Buffalo?”

Franczyk said a similar situation came up “many years ago” in which members of the local business community wanted to provide money to pay for or augment the salary for the chief information officer.

“If I recall, the Law Department said we cannot do that” because the businesses were for-profit, Franczyk said, adding the difference in this case may be that Kaleida Health is a nonprofit entity.

“Corporation Counsel needs to make sure we can do it. There may be something in state law,” Franczyk said.

Corporation Counsel Timothy A. Ball will be at Tuesday's meeting to provide information for Council members and to answer their questions.

During the Council’s Legislation Committee meeting last week, Taveras provided some insight as to how the arrangement would work. He said the City of Buffalo would be his primary focus.

“I will be here every single day,” said Taveras.

“I will still be helping Kaleida with their IT strategy. I will also be helping them with any operational issues that they have,” he added. “But my primary focus will be here. And the key benefit to the city of keeping that relationship is that I understand the resources here (in Buffalo) are not necessarily what we would need, so we will be able to reach back into resources there (at Kaleida) for advice and counsel and sometimes lending a hand if we need things done here.”

He also said that the city’s data and information will not be shared with any outside entities, including Kaleida, and that the data will be tracked internally, which is critical in this day and age.

“I will absolutely be very careful that there’s not data transfer,” Taveras said. “We will implement much more stringent security systems and auto capabilities so that we will know anyone that touches a piece of city data, when it was touched, where it went ... We should be able to prove to anybody who touched the data and why they touched the data.”

In announcing Taveras' appointment during last month's State of the City address, Mayor Byron W. Brown noted that he has had a long tenure at IBM, was a partner at Accenture, a chief information officer at Hartford Health and then a senior vice president for the Office of Integration at Barnabas Health.

If approved by the Council, Taveras would start work for the city on Monday.

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