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Attorney General’s Opinion Decides Round One in Technology Turf War

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—An Attorney General’s Opinion issued July 29, confirms the State Personnel Board (SPB) and the State Personnel Department (SPD) have the specific authority to “promulgate the manner by which State agencies are to maintain time and leave records.”

The legal definition of promulgating means, “to formally proclaim or declare a new statutory or administrative law as in effect, after it receives final approval.”

In his recent opinion, Attorney General Luther Strange determined the management of time and leave records is under the purview of the SPB and SPD.

Under the leadership of Acting Director of Finance, Bill Newton, various software-driven programs have been forced on State agencies, the latest being eSTART, a time and attendance system which, reportedly, is a disaster for a great many State entities.

Last week, the Alabama Political Reporter published letters written by Attorney General Luther Strange, Agriculture and Industry Commissioner John McMillan, former State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Tommy Bice and State Personnel Director Jackie Graham, outlining the various problems eSTART presents.

According to several insiders in the Capitol, Bill Newton has threatened agency heads who dared challenge his authority over the implementation of eSTART. Also, individuals within the Gov. Robert Bentley administration say the Governor has also demanded agencies use the failing eSTART program.

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Personnel’s request asks, “Given the more specific authority of SPB and SPD to administer leave, work hours, attendance, etc., does the Department of Finance, through the Information Services Division or the Secretary of Information Technology, have the authority to dictate the manner that an agency captures time and leave?”

It further seeks guidance asking, “Does ISD or the Secretary of Information Technology have the authority to dictate the specific software programs that agencies must use in accomplishing the missions of the agencies? Is ISD required to cooperate with SPD and all state agencies to obtain maximum utilization and efficiency in data processing operations as needed to meet the needs of each agency?”

Here again, the Attorney General’s Opinion finds, because SPB and SPD’s specific statutory authority is greater than the general authority given ISD and the Secretary of Information Technology, must find solutions that meet Personnel’s needs.


The opinion states, “ISD and the Secretary of Information Technology have general authority to implement uniform, statewide information technology solutions or software applications for all agencies. Because the specific statutory authority of SPB and SPD conflict with the more general authority of ISD and the Secretary of Information Technology, the specific authority of SPB and SPD controls. It further concludes, “SPB and SPD have the specific authority to promulgate the manner may which states agencies are to maintain time and leave records, and ISD must work with SPB and SPD to select and procure the systems and software necessary to meet those needs.”

It appears General Strange has called an end to Bentley and Newton’s turf war over eSTART…..for now.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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