Ulster County Comptroller Calls For IT Disaster Recovery Plan

Jul 30, 2016

The Ulster County comptroller is warning that the lack of an information technology disaster recovery plan jeopardizes county records and the ability of the county to operate in the face of a major calamity. He says the current plan is outdated and a course of action is needed. 

In 2012, Ulster County government contracted to provide a disaster preparedness assessment report and business continuity plan that, to date, is incomplete and obsolete. That’s according to Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach, who says four years later and after having doled out nearly $40,000 to design a course of action, such a plan lays in wait.

“And it couldn’t more clear or more specific when the external auditor says the lack of a disaster recovery plan leaves the county susceptible to a loss of data and inability to operate if there’s an extraordinary event that damages the current system,” Auerbach says.

Auerbach expresses his concern following an outside audit of finances that revealed the absence of such a plan.

“If the county building was flooded out tomorrow, which is 244 Fair Street in Kingston, and it’s the center of the county’s finances, it’s the center of the DMV, the county attorney,the county executive, how do we respond one day after that and what is the appropriate plan that’s in place,” says Auerbach. “Well, when we go and look at this purported plan we see, again, that it’s obsolete, outdated, people have left, people have passed away. It’s a worthless plan as it stands now.”

A July 21 management letter to county officials from Auerbach’s office says the county paid $38,850 to an outside firm, Access Systems, for a number of deliverables that included the development of a business continuity plan. The letter says the initiative was never finished and remains outstanding four years later, leaving the county in a precarious situation and susceptible to grave loss should a disaster strike. New York-based Access Systems did not return a request for comment. Auerbach, a Democrat, says he sent a memo to the county executive and legislature chairman but has not heard back directly from either. County Executive Mike Hein, also a Democrat, referred to a statement from Director of Ulster County Information Services Sylvia Wohlfahrt that reads, quote, “As previously mentioned to the Ulster County comptroller, Ulster County does have backup and recovery procedures. We will continue to work with the Legislature to further improve the plan.” End quote. Legislature Chairman Kenneth Ronk, a Republican, did not respond to requests for comment. Auerbach says the plan is intended to be relied upon in the event of a natural disaster.

“And this plan is really a blueprint or a roadmap that would be put in place to respond to that in order to get government up and running and working as quickly as possible and provide those necessary services to the 180,000 people who live in Ulster County,” says Auerbach.

He adds:

“We really should be putting all hands on deck, bringing people around the table and getting this up to date and active as soon as possible because, as we all know, nature has a way of doing things that we truly cannot control,” says Auerbach.

Auerbach says he hopes county leaders recognize the importance of having an up-to-date document in place and that they will direct efforts to getting this accomplished.