Six years after the Washington state legislature approved development of a statewide computer system to monitor ex-convicts, the program remains indefinitely on hold — a victim, say some supporters, of mismanagement in the office of Attorney General Christine Gregoire. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says advocates, including a former legislator whose daughter was murdered by a paroled convict, describe the SMART computer system as an innovative program that would have quickly alerted authorities to probation violations and potential crime suspects.
Against the backdrop of Gregoire’s Democratic campaign for governor, backers wonder why the program isn’t running and question what the state got for its $1.7 million investment in the computer system. Some former staff members have blamed one of Gregoire’s top assistants for bungling the project. One former employee says that after he and his supervisor raised questions about misspending, they were essentially fired — a charge the office emphatically denies.
Gregoire and some of her top lieutenants say that the computer tracking system was developed as the Legislature requested. The system is finished and ready to go, they say, and would be running if funding hadn’t been cut because of a record state budget shortfall last year. “I think my folks stepped up to the job,” Gregoire said.
Former state Sen. Dino Rossi, the leading Republican in the gubernatorial race, was chairman of the Senate budget committee when the project was shelved. He signed off on the cut and now says the program’s potential was squandered. “It sure would have been a useful (program) if they had focused on it and actually got it done,” Rossi said. But it failed, he said, because, “they had problems apparently at the AG’s office (with) mismanaging the development of the software…It’s a complete and total waste of money.”
The Attorney General’s Office says development of the project was difficult. Not only was the system extremely complex to design, but the office said faced a lack of broad support from law enforcement supposed to benefit from the system. That doesn’t satisfy backers. “The AG’s office had six years to do this. They had the state funding for it. So where is it?” asked Terry Morgan, a Redmond police commander who helped conceptualize the database.