Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's choice for information technology commissioner, Vincent M. Mezzanotte, won unanimous approval by a legislative committee Tuesday after he promised not to do any outside consulting work and treaded cautiously about the future direction of the department.
The committee vote came after Mezzanotte, a veteran information technology executive for both the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, faced about a half-hour of questioning at the education and information technology committee. The full legislature is expected to vote on his nomination Tuesday.
Many of the questions Mezzanotte faced seemed to have more to do with former IT chief Donald Rodgers.
Rodgers was forced to resign in August in a deal with the district attorney to avoid jail time. Rodgers pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors. One was for filing a false instrument by forcing an aide to create a fake requisition number in a letter of intent on a $5 million software deal. The other was for failing to disclose his ownership and the money he made from a computer consulting company, Red Dog Design.
Asked if he would undertake any outside consulting work, Mezzanotte said he would limit himself to his county job, which pays $150,000 a year. "My sense is that the commissioner's job will take enough of my time," he said.
Mezzanotte, 56, of West Islip, who retired from the LIRR in 2010 with a $112,000 pension, said he returned to Metro-North for two years with a waiver from state civil service to "fill a critical void in an emergency situation" to give the agency time to find a permanent replacement.
Lawmakers also questioned Mezzanotte on whether he supported a highly centralized computer operation, which was strongly advocated by Rodgers and officials in Bellone's performance management unit.
"I think there needs to be coordination," Mezzanotte said. He added that the county "needs a mix" to "closely partner with stakeholders," and also to "leverage data so it is beneficial to all the entities in the county."
Mezzanotte also said information technology officials should not be the decision-makers on policy issues but provide enough information for leaders to make decisions.
Mazzanotte said he had not yet had time to assess the entire system or personnel.
But he indicated that "one area that needs attention is the financial system," which he said is "running on outdated technology."
Mazzanotte was referring to the county Integrated Financial Management System, which has been in place since 1996.