Massachusetts CIO quits amid OpenDocument furor

The man responsible for bringing OpenDocument to the U.S. state has resigned following controversy and personal attacks over the initiative.
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor

Peter Quinn has resigned from his post as chief information officer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to avoid further mudslinging over the state's controversial move to OpenDocument.

Quinn claimed that he was resigning to avoid being the personal focus of the controversy surrounding the U.S. state's move to open standards.

''It is readily apparent that I have become a lightning rod with regard to any IT initiative. Even the smallest initiatives are being mitigated or stopped by some of the most unlikely and often uninformed parties," Quinn reportedly said in an e-mail sent to the state's IT department.

"The last thing I can let happen is my presence be the major contributing factor marginalizing the good work of ITD [IT division] and the entire IT community".

A spokesman for Massachusetts confirmed that Quinn had submitted his resignation, according to The Boston Globe on Wednesday.

Eric Kriss, the former Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance who was Quinn's boss during most of the ODF evaluation process, said that Quinn found it difficult to handle the personal attacks that followed the state's high profile move.

"I met with Peter briefly on December 21, prior to his decision, and he indicated to me he was extremely uncomfortable with the personal attention surrounding the open format controversy," said Kriss in an interview with Internet law site Groklaw. "Peter is an IT professional who is not accustomed to the rough-and-tumble world of politics."

Quinn was particularly affected by last month's report in the Boston Globe, which claimed he had taken unauthorized trips to conferences, according to Kriss. These allegations were investigated, and Quinn was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

"He found the last few months to be very distasteful, especially the Boston Globe article that seemed to imply some sort of improper influence related to his conference travel," Kriss told Groklaw.

The Boston Globe's report attracted a flood of criticism from the technical and legal community. Groklaw described it as a "character assassination in an attempt to discredit OpenDocument."

Andy Oram, an editor for O'Reilly Media, said the article showed that anyone trying to introduce open standards in governments "has to be ready for every kind of backlash."

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