By Lookout Staff
December 4, 2023 -- Santa Monica's incoming Chief Information Officer has withdrawn her acceptance one month after being named to the top tech post, City officials announced Monday.
Paula Crowell informed City officials that she would remain as head of the Long Beach Utilities Department after the City Council there declared a local emergency in response to a cybersecurity breach November 14.
Crowell was scheduled to begin heading Santa Monica's Information Services Department -- which has 50 staff members and a $13 million annual budget -- on December 18.
"We understand the unforeseen and changing circumstances that contributed to her decision to stay with the city of Long Beach and respect her commitment to seeing the organization through one of the most challenging times in recent memory," Santa Monica officials said in a statement.
Santa Monica's Information services Department is in charge of staff training and support services, the City's website, cybersecurity, software engineering, the Santa Monica mobile app, the city’s open data program and CityNet municipal broadband services.
Crowell would have been the third person to head the Department since the dawn of the internet three decades ago ("City Hires Third Info Services Director in Internet Era," November 6, 2023").
The announcement of Crowell's hiring came one week before Long Beach's information system, including the City's main public website and utility bill payments system, were taken down by the cyberattack.
Last Wednesday, the City issued an update. "This has been an unprecedented event for our City organization that we are taking very seriously," said Mayor Rex Richardson.
“While most of our systems are now restored, the incident investigation remains ongoing. The recovery process may take time."
Santa Monica officials issued the following statement from Crowell on Monday:
"After thorough consideration, I have come to the difficult decision not to join the city of Santa Monica. I have shaped my career around being a thoughtful and supportive leader with a strong commitment to the success of my team and the organization I serve.
"Recent weeks amid the cybersecurity incident in Long Beach have underscored the substantial need for my contributions to the Long Beach Utilities Department and I feel a profound dedication to continuing to serve my team and our Long Beach customers," Crowell said.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to become a part of the Santa Monica team and know that the Information Services Department will continue to be successful under whomever steps up to lead it."
City officials said they "remain committed to serving our community effectively and efficiently with innovative technology solutions and will have more to share in the coming weeks."