Kansas judicial branch withholds $2M in payments owed to IT company

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TOPEKA — The Kansas judicial branch confirmed Wednesday withholding of $2 million from a Texas contractor as leverage to speed correction of lingering information technology problems with the new centralized case management system being implemented by courts in all 105 counties.

The state 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. 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, director of information services in the Kansas judicial branch, told a joint House and Senate information technology committee the decision was made to suspend payment 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 immediately available to respond to questions about technology shortcomings with the Kansas project and the state’s decision to suspend payment to the company.

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.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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