Charles Brennan is out as Philadelphia CIO, a spokesman for the mayor’s office has confirmed.
Mark Wheeler, deputy CIO for enterprise data and architecture, and the city’s chief geographic information officer, will serve as interim CIO during a national search for Brennan’s replacement. Brennan served as Philadelphia’s CIO for roughly two years, taking up the work after the election of Mayor Jim Kenney.
“While Charles Brennan has made important contributions to OIT [Office of Information Technology] in the past two years, the administration has determined that a change in leadership is appropriate at this time,” Mike Dunn, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, said in an email. “The mayor remains fully committed to the work begun under Charlie, including fixing the back-office information systems that, in many instances, are desperately in need of modernization.”
Efforts to fix back-end information and related systems first launched during Kenney’s predecessor, Michael Nutter, and have subsequently faced many obstacles, due in large part to the vast and complex scope of the work. A report by the Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News found in August that four critical IT upgrades have been plagued by cancellations, contractor disputes and delays, and that timelines for the completion of these projects remain somewhat hazy.
Brennan, a 21-year veteran of the city's police department who spent years working in its IT office, was appointed to the CIO position amid a number of tech and innovation changes made in the early days of the Kenney administration. These changes included shutting down the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) and overhauling the city’s reporting structure. The mayor’s office said at the time that these changes were designed to allow Brennan to focus more closely on the badly needed legacy system upgrades and IT capital projects.
Whereas in the previous administration the CIO had reported directly to the city manager and the mayor, Brennan reported instead to the chief administrative officer, who also appropriated some of the CIO’s innovation responsibilities. The city’s innovation work continued, just in a different place.
Given the scope and importance of the ongoing critical IT systems work, it seems likely that Brennan’s permanent replacement will have direct experience completing similar projects. Interim CIO Wheeler, for his part, is a veteran public servant who has worked for the city since 2010, with an emphasis on data-driven decision-making and civic engagement, according to the city’s website. He is also a former urban planner for the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. Recently, Wheeler was heavily involved with the creation of Atlas, a new map-based platform that gives users a streamlined location to access a diverse range of information about properties in Philadelphia, including value assessments, 311 call histories, zoning and other data.
Zack Quaintance is a staff writer for Government Technology. Prior to that, he spent five years working in daily newspapers, and another five years working in the tech sector. He lives in Northern California.