The State Worker

California state worker charity drive runs afoul of tech rules

California government technology officials have nixed a webpage that allowed state employees to pledge contributions to any of hundreds of charitable organizations after they discovered it wasn’t secure.

Our Promise – a partnership between the state, the United Way and thousands of charitable organizations – each fall allows state employees to pledge contributions to hundreds of charities via payroll donation. Pledges last year totaled $6.4 million.

For many years, the campaign featured a pledge form that donors could download, print out and turn in. Last year, Our Promise tested an online form for some contributors. This year when the program was expanded to all employees, it violated state security standards, said Teala Schaff, spokeswoman for the Department of Technology. For example, it used contributors’ Social Security numbers for registration purposes.

“Further, although Our Promise has a privacy policy,” Schaff said in an email, “they do not warranty against privacy breeches, also a violation of state security policy.”

The online option went live briefly last month, but was abruptly taken down. Asked to explain, Schaff said, “As to what changed, I can’t comment as we were not involved in previous years practices and I’d defer those questions to Our Promise.”

Some state employees told The State Worker that they had pledged online last year and wondered why they couldn’t now.

Stephanie McLemore Bray, president and CEO of United Way California Capital Region, said the state’s notice last month “wasn’t what we expected, that’s for sure,” because the online system cleared pilot-program testing with the state a year ago.

Informed of Bray’s assertion that the state was involved last year, Schaff emailed what she called a “joint statement” from the technology department and Our Promise:

“The Department of Technology participated in testing the 2014 tool with Our Promise but provided no state approval for its use. As technology is ever changing, the 2015 campaign tool changed and, upon review, did not meet the state’s security standards. The Department and Our Promise continue to work in collaboration to develop an online tool that meets the state’s security standards and enables state employees to donate in this evolving, paper-less world.”

Despite the Our Promise campaign’s online pledge option going offline, donors can, as in previous years, download a pledge form that they can then turn in to the appropriate department official or mail to the campaign’s Sacramento office.