L.A. may sue over delays in Google Apps project, report says

Google contends that delays in bring LAPD on board were caused by city modifications to original contract

Google on Thursday downplayed a report that the city of Los Angeles may file a lawsuit against it due to delays in implementing a much touted $7.2 million contract to replace Novell GroupWise applications with the Google Apps for Government hosted email and office applications platform.

A Google spokesman acknowledged that it's taken longer than planned to roll out the hosted applications to the Los Angeles Police (LAPD) and three other city departments. However, he added that the problems have been caused by delays in meeting security requirements that were not part of the original contract, and were added only after the project was well underway.

"It's taking longer than expected to move public safety officials to Google Apps because their law enforcement responsibilities entail unique requirements," many of which were designed for non-cloud environments, said Google spokesman Andrew Kovacs.

Google and its implementation partner CSC are currently working on deploying those requirements, Kovacs said.

He declined to say when Google expects work to be completed. A CSC spokesman contended that all other deadlines set in the Google Apps contract have been met.

The Los Angeles Times first reported yesterday that Los Angeles city officials could be mulling whether to file a lawsuit against Google and CSC due to project delays.

According to the report, the city's budget committee met earlier this week with attorneys in a closed door session to discuss the status of the Google Enterprise Email & Collaboration System project with CSC and Google. The paper said the the meeting "raised the possibility" that city officials may be considering legal action.

City officials could not be reached for comment on the report.

The Times noted that City Controller Wendy Greuel had separately asked LA's technology department to explain the circumstances of the delay. It also quoted City Councilman Bernard Parks as expressing frustration, saying that Google and CSC had been given "more than enough time" to finish the project.

The latest concerns come just four months after Los Angeles CTO Randi Levin sent a strongly worded Notice of Deficiencies to CSC raising concerns about Google and CSC's failure to implement some security requirements mandated by the city's police department and the FBI. Levin also cited city concerns that Google and CSC failed to integrate the city's existing electronic subpoena system with the new hosted Google environment.

A copy of the notice was obtained and published earlier this week by Consumer Watchdog, a group that has been carrying on a running feud with Google over privacy and security issues.

In the notice, Levin said that Google and CSC had "repeatedly committed" to meeting certain deadlines for implementing both the LAPD's security requirements and the FBI's requirement that the Google Apps for Government system be compliant with its Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) standards.

Despite such assurances, CSC and Google failed to meet the deadlines on several occasions, Levin had noted in the letter sent to David Beach, senior principal contract administrator at CSC.

In fact, she noted, CSC had asked for an additional 12 to 18 months, and indicated that it might be necessary to ask "the DOJ and FBI to amend or reinterpret the current CJIS policy ... CSC and Google's behavior goes beyond a mere failure to communicate in a timely manner, and instead, on several occasions, has risen to the level of misrepresentation," Levin said in the notice.

According to Levin's notice, the failure to deliver on schedule had forced the LAPD to move about 1,900 users who had migrated to Google's new email system back to the old GroupWise platform. The delay also caused the LAPD to postpone its planned migration of 4,000 more users to the new system by October, 2010. Levin also criticized the two companies for functionality problems with the electronic subpoena system which could have "significant public security ramifications."

Kovacs downplayed the memo, describing it as "inaccurate and out of date."

"The City has asked us to meet new requirements that were not part of the original contract and which required work to implement in a cloud computing environment," he said, adding that 16,000 LA city employees are using Google Apps today.

Kovacs added that the city submitted a change order to CSC seeking compliance with the CJIS requirements.

Google and CSC are working with the city to implement the CJIS requirements, he added. "We have been paying the additional costs associated with keeping the LAPD on Groupwise and we are going to cover those costs. This is not resulting in additional cost to the taxpayer," Kovacs said.

Kovacs said that Google is breaking new ground by trying to making Google Apps for Government compliant with CJIS standards. All U.S. state, federal and local government agencies adopting Google Apps in the future "will be able to enjoy the benefits of the expertise we've developed with this project," he said.

The CSC spokesman added that 30 out of 40 city departments have so far been successfully migrated to Google Apps.

In an email statement, the CSC spokesman said that LAPD employees have not yet migrated to Google Apps because of necessary, additional security requirements that the department needs to work within the larger U.S. law enforcement community. "These new requirements were not included in CSC's contract with the City and were not specified in the City's RFP for this project," the spokesman added.

News of the problems in Los Angeles comes as Google fends off charges that it misled the government when it claimed that Google Apps is compliant with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) standard.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan , send e-mail to jvijayan@computerworld.com or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed .

Read more about cloud computing in Computerworld's Cloud Computing Topic Center.

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