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City computers down for two hours

ShondKing came up from 69th Damen for city sticker but got caught computer malfunctiDepartment Revenue's first floor City Hall offices.

Shonda King came up from 69th and Damen for a city sticker, but got caught in the computer malfunction at the Department of Revenue's first floor City Hall offices. She will purchase her city sticker online when she gets back home. | Dom Najolia~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 9, 2012 6:16AM

A power failure brought the city’s entire computer system to a halt for about two hours Thursday — causing headaches for everyone from residents attempting to purchase city stickers or pay parking tickets to city employees trying to access their email.

City Clerk Susana Mendoza’s aides said they didn’t expect their site’s operations to resume normal activity until Friday.

“Unfortunately, the entire city system is down and in the clerk’s office that means we can’t offer the city stickers right now,” Kristine Williams, a spokeswoman for City Clerk Susana Mendoza, said at about 3:30 p.m.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the system went down shortly after 2 p.m. but was back online before 4 p.m. The outage also affected the internal Internet connection, including email and shared files.

“There was a problem with the power system that resulted in the system going down for a short period of time,” said Sarah Hamilton, the mayor’s communications director.

She said she was “positive” the problem had nothing to do with hacking.

“It was a problem with the power system. That has nothing to do with cyber-security,” she said.

Sources said the city’s 911 system was unaffected by the outage.

“It’s a closed system. Police and fire dispatch has no interaction with the city’s Internet system. It is a secure, independent system,” a source said.

Brett Goldstein, acting director of the Department of Information and technology, could not be reached for comment.

The city clerk’s website for buying vehicle and parking sticker still had a message at 4 p.m. saying, “We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties, please check back soon.”

Williams, a spokeswoman for Mendoza, said her office was still having technical issues as of 4:20 p.m. and didn’t expect to be back to normal until Friday.

“We expect everything to be fully operational tomorrow,” Williams said.

At the clerk’s first floor office where the city sells vehicle stickers — all of which expire at the end of the month — patrons were told by city staffers, “Cash or checks today our computer system is down.”

Shonda King, 41, of West Englewood, walked away from a clerk staffer who told her she could pay with only cash or check.

“It’s a real inconvenience to come down, you are being proactive, you are getting things done before the deadline, and then you come in and ‘Oops, our computer is down,’” King said. “It’s frustrating. It’s an inconvenience.”

She left without a sticker.

“I’ll just do it online and pray to god it doesn’t get lost in the mail,” said King, a social worker.

Also irked was Jose Carrera, 54, of Little Village. He was at Water Tower Place running another errand and wanted to zip down to City Hall to get a sticker — but he only had a credit card.

“So I came all the way down here from Water Tower, and I need to get this today, and now I got to find a Chase,” he said.

Linda Bolden also wanted to pay with a credit card.

“I was going to see if I could get my city sticker today. I came in especially for it,” she said. “They are telling me if I have cash this can still happen.”

She was able to withdraw cash from a nearby ATM and returned to buy the sticker.

The clerk’s office offered a will-call option to residents attempting to buy city stickers, Williams said. Residents who came to City Hall could fill out the necessary paperwork and come back to pick up the sticker at a later date.

Motorists were instructed to drop off their forms at the office’s “will call” station. Those at home or work trying to get a sticker online — whose application is run through the city computer system, will have to wait until the computer system is operational, Williams said.

People trying to pay parking tickets also were unable to pay in person or online Thursday afternoon.

“It’s an ongoing issue,” Holly Stutz, deputy comptroller for the city, said late Thursday afternoon.

Asked whether deadlines would be extended for people who couldn’t settle their debts on time, Stutz said: “We haven’t determined that yet.”

The city’s head of information technology, Jason DeHaan, resigned abruptly after the city’s website was hacked during the NATO Summit. Officials said his departure was unrelated to the hacking.

His replacement, Goldstein, just began his job on Tuesday and his appointment was introduced — but not yet approved — at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Contributing: Dan Mihalopoulos and Lisa Fedorowicz

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