Kansas judicial branch withholds $1.2 million in payments owed to Texas IT company

State IT director says contractor now ‘more interested’ in fixing eCourt glitches

By: - August 19, 2021 1:18 pm
The Kansas judicial branch’s IT director told Rep. Kyle Hoffman’s joint committee about $2 million had been withheld from a Texas contractor to force completion of IT changes to the centralized case management system being adopted in by all 105 counties. (Screen grab/Kansas Reflector)

The Kansas judicial branch’s IT director told Rep. Kyle Hoffman’s joint committee about $2 million had been withheld from a Texas contractor to force completion of IT changes to the centralized case management system being adopted in by all 105 counties. (Screen grab/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas judicial branch confirmed the withholding of at least $1.2 million from a Texas contractor as leverage to speed correction of lingering information technology problems with the state’s new centralized case management system being implemented by courts in all 105 counties.

The judiciary entered an agreement in 2017 with Tyler Technologies in Plano, Texas, to develop the eCourt system to handle civil, criminal, traffic, juvenile and family cases. The standardized online system would bring law enforcement officers under an IT umbrella with clerks, judges, court service officers and expand the public’s online access to court information.

In 2020, the implementation timeline was adjusted to allow more time for the contractor to grapple with technical refinements to the system being rolled out in phases. Ongoing issues include difficulty with elevated access to the system by law enforcement officers, who have been forced to get information through court clerks. In addition, law enforcement officers have encountered hiccups when submitting vehicle citations. There also were problems with running regular reports of fees owed by individuals.

Kelly O’Brien, the Kansas judicial branch’s IT director, said the state applied financial pressure on contractor Tyler Technologies to address shortcomings in the new online case management system to be used in all 105 counties. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

Kelly O’Brien, director of information services in the Kansas judicial branch, told a joint House and Senate information technology committee the decision was made to suspend payments to Tyler Technologies.

“We put our stake in the ground,” O’Brien said. “We’re all over them.”

“Are these new issues?” asked Rep. Kyle Hoffman, a Coldwater Republican and chairman of the joint information technology committee.

“I wouldn’t say they’re new,” O’Brien said. “I will say we’ve withheld paying for the last few months. It’s making them a lot more interested.”

A spokesperson for Tyler Technologies wasn’t available to respond to questions about technology shortcomings with the Kansas project and the state’s decision to delay payments to the company.

Lisa Taylor, a spokeswoman for the state judicial branch, said O’Brien’s estimate during the legislative hearing of $2 million in withheld payments to Tyler Technologies was inflated. She said the figure was closer to $1.2 million, and that $500,000 was paid Monday on a January invoice from Tyler Technologies. The remainder withheld from the IT company was estimated at $700,000 to $800,000, Taylor said.

The new case management system would improve efficiency of court personnel and broaden internet access to public court information and documents consistent with state law and court rules.

O’Brien said expansion of the eCourt system to the majority of Kansas counties had been halted pending the IT fixes, because it would be impractical to add substantial volume to the case management system. He expressed confidence IT adjustments would be finished within 30 days.

In his presentation to legislators, O’Brien attributed implementation delays, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal has been to complete the transition to eCourt by late 2022, and O’Brien said he was confident the timeline had enough padding to accommodate that objective.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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