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Baltimore's top IT official resigns after alleged ethical violations emerge in N.Y.

Baltimore's top information technology official resigned Tuesday after an audit in New York detailed alleged ethical violations that occurred while he worked in state government, including negotiating a job for his girlfriend and soliciting a job himself with a software vendor that was awarded a major contract.

Rico J. Singleton, whom Baltimore hired as chief information officer in December 2010, was previously the deputy chief information officer for the Office for Technology, a New York state agency.

He came to Baltimore after being hailed in government technology circles for his experience in helping New York consolidate its state and county information technology security contracts with McAfee, a major software vendor that figures prominently in that state's audit involving Singleton. His Baltimore salary was $160,000 — about $5,000 more than the mayor's salary.

The allegations that followed Singleton from New York to Baltimore ultimately cost him his job, according to a statement from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake released Tuesday evening.

"Government transparency and ethical conduct are an important foundation of my administration," Rawlings-Blake said. "The new allegations of misconduct contained in the New York State Office of the Comptroller Audit are deeply troubling and were not known until the audit was released publicly this morning."

After announcing Singleton's resignation, Rawlings-Blake named the deputy chief information officer, Robert Minor, as acting director of the Mayor's Office of Information Technology.

According to the New York audit, Singleton was partly blamed for implementing a contract with McAfee that wasted $1.5 million in taxpayer funds. Singleton and other officials negotiated a contract for anti-virus and security software that cost $1.9 million, but only recouped about $400,000 from other agencies because many were not interested in the software, the audit found.

The audit noted that Singleton appeared to have "violated the public's trust" by using his position of authority to obtain a job for his live-in girlfriend with McAfee right after the contract was signed.

Singleton also sought a job with McAfee and interviewed at the company's Atlanta office about a month after the state awarded the contract, the audit said. Singleton's airfare and hotel were paid for by McAfee, though he still was employed by New York state, the audit said.

The audit faulted Singleton for accepting other improper travel benefits from McAfee, including a trip to Las Vegas for a special invitation-only dinner with former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

Singleton could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

The New York Office of the State Comptroller, which conducted the audit, referred Singleton's actions to that state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics for investigation. That agency will conduct an investigation into the comptroller's findings. Singleton could face civil penalties, including fines, but not criminal charges for violating that state's public office laws, according to the comptroller's office.

Singleton's former employer, the Office for Technology, said in a statement Tuesday that it "recognizes the seriousness of the misconduct of former Deputy Chief Information Officer Rico Singleton, who departed from OFT in December 2010. Mr. Singleton's misconduct constituted a derogation of his authority and an intentional disregard of his duties."

While working in New York, Singleton launched Empire 2.0, a strategy that encouraged government agencies to use social media and online collaborative tools for their work and for engaging with the public.

In Baltimore, Singleton oversaw about 100 employees in the Mayor's Office of Information Technology. He ran an operation in charge of the city's Intranet networks, email accounts, e-business operations, online payments and more.

Singleton supported the mayor's Open Data Initiative about a month after he joined city government, and has pushed city agencies to share all kinds of data — from parking violations to crime reports — with the public.

Last February, Rawlings-Blake cheered Singleton after he was named a "Premier 100" IT leader by the ComputerWorld publication, one of 100 information technology leaders honored across the country.

"Rico Singleton is playing a significant role as my administration works to use technology to make city government more transparent and efficient," said Rawlings-Blake in a statement at the time. "I am glad that he is receiving national recognition for his leadership, innovation, and vision."

He received praise from some in the city's technology community for using the Internet to engage and communicate with residents about the city's technology goals and needs.

In January, for example, Singleton and the Mayor's Office of Information Technology released a new website that enabled people to pretend to balance the city's budget.

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Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Scharper contributed to this article.

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