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Open document man resigns from Mass CTO post

Tired of being a lightning rod

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The main cheerleader behind Massachusetts' embrace of the OpenDocument format (ODF) has resigned, saying his role as the state's IT chief has been undermined by controversy surrounding the document battle.

Peter Quinn, the chief information officer for Massachusetts since 2002, notified his staff of the decision to move on last week. The resignation becomes effective on Jan. 12 and raises some questions as to how the OpenDocument push will be embraced without its major backer. That said, the state is still on course to use the ODF standard by 2007.

"I have become a lightning rod with regard to any IT initiative," Quinn wrote in an e-mail to his staff. "Even the smallest initiatives are being mitigated or stopped by some of the most unlikely and often uninformed parties.

''I view these circumstances as quite troubling because the good work laid out by the IT Commission is slowly being strangled and brought to a halt. And the last thing I can let happen is my presence be the major contributing factor marginalizing the good work of ITD and the entire IT community."

ODF has been backed by the likes of IBM and Sun Microsystems who wouldn't mind seeing Microsoft lose its grip on the office suite market. Meanwhile, Microsoft has claimed that banning non-ODF compliant software unfairly limits competition.

Beyond this vendor controversy, some Massachusetts politicians have complained that moving away from Microsoft Office will be costly and that requiring ODF in all instances is too broad of a move.

In addition, the squabble over ODF has turned into a personal affair for Quinn.

The Boston Globe requested that Governor Mitt Romney's administration investigate Quinn's expenses and jaunts to trade shows. A review of the matter revealed that "Quinn had authorization to make the trips and had not violated any conflict of interest provisions," the Globe noted in its report today about Quinn's resignation. The paper failed to mention that it had requested the investigation in the first place - an oversight that Groklaw deemed cowardly.

The director of communication for Governor Romney told the Globe that the shift to ODF remains on track. "We are moving steadily towards that deadline and we expect no changes in those rules," said the spokesman. ®

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