A state information technology employee says he was escorted from work under armed guard Monday after sending an email to lawmakers Friday questioning whether the Oklahoma Department of Human Services was wasting thousands of dollars on an updated logo and rebranding project.
“This is crazy,” said David Porta, a planning specialist who works on DHS information technology projects as an employee of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. Porta worked directly for DHS for about six years before his position was transferred to OMES about a year ago as part of the governor's state information technology consolidation initiative.
Porta, 66, said he became incensed Friday after learning at a meeting that DHS officials were preparing to launch a rebranding effort that would involve changing the agency's logo and using the acronym DHS for the agency instead of OKDHS.
“Is DHS really going to spend thousands, no probably tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer's money simply to change their name from OKDHS to DHS to improve their ‘image' to the press and public?” Porta wrote in an email he fired off to several legislative leaders and editorial writers for The Oklahoman. “Has anyone really told the members of the state Senate or House what the real costs involved are and what has to be changed just so you can have new letterheads and websites and advertising that says DHS instead of OKDHS? I doubt it. It sounds as if this new crew is running amuck … and as usual has inflated the perceived benefit while minimizing or completely ignoring the real costs.”
‘Simply not true'
Sheree Powell, spokeswoman for DHS, said Porta is misinformed and was out of line.
“He's speaking about things he knows absolutely nothing about and he didn't bother to ask,” Powell said. “He just decided to go off on a rant. ... He is alleging we are spending tens of thousands of dollars on rebranding, which is simply not true.”
Yes, DHS is rebranding and plans to roll out a new logo, a new strategic plan and update its website design in September as new Director Ed Lake helps chart a new direction for the agency, she said.
But the work is being done under a fixed cost contract DHS has with OMES for information technology services and there will be no additional cost, she said.
“We're doing it in a very fiscally responsible manner,” she insisted. “We've been trying to figure out how much it's going to cost, but it's next to nothing.”
Exercised an option
Porta's email so infuriated DHS executives that they exercised an option in the agency's contract with OMES and disabled Porta's security access to DHS information and buildings.
“You are no longer authorized to work on any OKDHS related projects or work assignments, and you are to be assigned to a non-OKDHS work location,” Mark A. Robison, director of DHS's office of business quality, said Monday in a letter to Porta that called his email “inflammatory” and “completely incorrect.”
“You are hereby directed to vacate the OKDHS Data Services building immediately,” Robison said.
Placed on leave
John Estus, OMES spokesman, said Porta has been placed on administrative leave.
“An OMES employee was not speaking for the agency when he sent an email to journalists, legislators and others claiming certain costs are being incurred for a redesign of the DHS logo and related services,” Estus said. “A cost analysis for the project has not been done, but it will not cost tens of thousands of dollars, as the employee claimed. The employee has been placed on administrative leave while actions taken by both the OMES employee and DHS staff are reviewed. Because this is a personnel matter, we cannot comment further at this time.”
Powell said she thought it was over dramatic for Porta to say he was escorted from the building by armed guard, but said an employee of DHS's Office of Inspector General, who is authorized to carry a weapon, was present to ensure the safety of employees.
‘Not costing anything'
The primary reason for the new logo design is DHS officials do not believe the old logo “reflects caring, compassionate (employees) helping vulnerable Oklahomans,” Powell said.
“Where he came up with this ‘tens of thousands of dollars,' we have no idea,” she said. “It's not costing the agency anything. ... It doesn't cost anything to switch out a logo on a computer screen. ... We make changes to our website every single day for one reason or another.”
The redesign was done in house, she said.
Powell said the agency has very little printed letterhead and what letterhead it does have will be used before more is printed.
The new logo and changing of references from OKDHS to DHS will be done gradually as supplies of old brochures run out, new policies are implemented and information on the website is updated, she said.
“It doesn't have to be done all at once,” she said. “You'll probably see the old logo on buildings for years to come because if there's a logo out there attached to a building or sign, we're not going to go to the expense of changing that. That would be ridiculous.”
Porta said executives often don't recognize the amount of time and programming work required to change logos and do other rebranding.