Letter: NOMADS | NevadaAppeal.com

Letter: NOMADS

by C. Nagel

After reading your article on NOMADS in Sunday’s paper dated Jan. 12, I would like to straighten out a few things and tell you what really happened. I know because I was there.

I was instrumental in developing the first computerized child support system in the state of Nevada. I had also developed a computerized accounting system, including payroll for 365 employees while working for Massapequa General Hospital back east in the ’60s. So I know what ingredients go into making a good program.

In 1975, I was employed as the child support enforcement coordinator for the Carson City District Attorney’s Office. Bill Maddox, who was the DA at the time, was interested in a computerized child support program and assigned me to the project. The programmers for the project were Mark Carter and Sharon Oda from ADS. I planned the specifications based on what a child support case needed to be tracked from its inception, through all its complexities, down to its final payment. This program provided management with reports and statistics of every kind. It was user friendly, comprehensive, quick to respond and easily mastered by the caseworkers. It was welcomed and adopted by all 17 Nevada counties. Eventually each county, including Carson City, enhanced the program based upon their working habits and changes in the laws. But the basic foundation was still there. Had the state people taken the time to look into the DA’s CS program, they would have realized what a gem they had. Such a program could have easily been incorporated into the state’s plan, and the state wouldn’t have these problems today.

Where NOMADS went wrong was that they had too many chiefs and no Indians (so to speak) at their round table. The discussions at these meetings were always based on the needs of the various welfare departments. The people from the DA oftentimes wondered why the heck they were at those meetings. After all, what did they know about the business of welfare, and any suggestions they made were ignored. The programmers must have had a hell of a time figuring out all the mishmash that went on there. Nothing was ever written in stone. Every issue was up for grabs and change.

When it finally came to the DA’s turn to discuss its needs, NOMADS wouldn’t hear of it. They knew what worked best, and since it was the state’s CS program, they were determined to reinvent the wheel and develop a new child support system for the DAs. Bad move.

They seemed to have forgotten who brings home the bacon for the kiddies, and that it’s the DA who establishes and enforces child support. But the state wants total control over the child support program. Who knows, perhaps one day the state will take over the DA’s job. If so, they had better assign people to the project who know what they’re doing.

After 10 years and $126 million later, time ran out for the state’s CS program. The Feds had enough. They gave the state its last ultimatum, to either complete the project within a certain time frame or face certain sanctions. This would have been very bad for the state. It would have meant a payback of big bucks to the Feds. So NOMADS, in its infinite wisdom, had no choice but to put together a Mickey Mouse program with lots of boners in it, and figured they could be fixed later. What a way to do business.

I understand the state’s system has 500 screens, dozens of cryptic acronyms, is slow as molasses with a manual that no one can follow, and most importantly of all, it’s not user friendly. It doesn’t even have a bank reconciliation program. The frightening part of this is that payments are being received and checks are being issued. What a nightmare. Pity the poor caseworker who must work on this system. What a headache to go home with.

One must realize that programmers know nothing about your business, especially the business of child support. Programmers rely on the specifications that you provide them with. They’ll take those specs and translate them into a computer language, design screens and data fields. For a project of this magnitude to be successful, you better make certain that these programmers have a clear picture of what it is you’re striving for. Computer wisdom and technology go hand in hand.

Too late, too bad. The state should have taken a better look at the DA’s CS program before jumping into the unknown. I, for one, would not support this project any further. There are better things to do with my tax money than throw it down the drain of NOMADS. Let me further say that as a taxpayer, I feel my taxes were not just raped, they were gang-banged.

CATHERINE NAGEL

Carson City