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Dallas County Hires Interim CIO Amid Swelling Vacancies

Catherine Maras, a longtime CIO and an exec at Fortium Partners, will temporarily serve the county.

The Dallas County Commissioners Court contracted this week with Fortium Partners to provide an interim CIO, according to court documents dated Dec. 19.

Catherine Maras, whose IT experience in the public and private sectors spans 30-plus years, will serve part time in the role that has been vacant since July.

She is working on a half-time basis with the option to work more or less as needed. Her hourly rate is $275 per hour plus expenses, with a total limit of $50,000, according to the documents.

Maras will report to the court’s administration, and her direct reports will include the assistant IT chief of applications support and development, chief ISO and the IT financial manager.

According to her corporate bio, her experience includes serving as CIO of Bexar County from 2009 to 2017 and as a managing director for Microsoft Corp. from 2007 to 2009. She is now a partner at Dallas-based Fortium Parters.

Maras was CIO of Cook County, Ill., starting in 1997, according to a 2010 Government Technology profile.*

“I feel very accountable for everything happening in Cook County,” she told the magazine. “You cannot delegate your accountability. There are a lot more checks and balances here than in corporate America. You could either think that's good or bad. I think it's good.”

For context, Cook County encompasses Chicago and now has about 5.1 million residents while Dallas County has more than 2.6 million and Dallas as its county seat.

Currently, Dallas County is under fire for poor IT response and not empowering staff, according to The Dallas Morning News. On Tuesday the commissioners court reviewed a Gartner IT Organizational Assessment.

A Gartner slide from the Dallas County Commissioners Court Dec. 19 IT reporting.
The report establishes multiple goals leading to a “target state” for IT, which has far fewer employees than benchmark municipalities — Dallas County has 122 FTE in IT, but there is an average of 153 FTE at peer entities, according to the Gartner presentation.

There are also leadership gaps. In July, the former CIO moved to Frisco, and the county recently advertised for an assistant chief of IT operations.

In addition, the report says that Dallas County should:
  • Update governance for better decision-making
  • Optimize the IT budget and “address workforce gaps"
  • Update the organizational structure and “invest in leadership growth"
  • Manage change

The 18-page presentation is available online.

During the meeting, the commissioners also approved several technical agreements and contracts. They include:
  • Wireless installation at the Lew Sterrett Jail to Senior Consultants and Azteca
  • PagerDuty SaaS for IT security incident response
  • NearMap imagery and subscription software for map browsing and GIS integration
  • Tyler Technologies Jury Manager SaaS renewal
  • SentinelOne Endpoint Detection and Response approval
  • Dell EMC Isilon refresh for $1.7 million
  • Additional vender management tools and services
  • Hardware and equipment via Department of Information Resources contracts

*Government Technology is a sister publication to Industry Insider — Texas.
Rae D. DeShong is a Dallas-based staff writer and has written for The Dallas Morning News and worked as a community college administrator.