Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"California's top court bureaucracy slapped with audit"

2014-03-18 from "1021 NewsWire":
SEIU’s court industry won a major statewide victory last week when the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) voted unanimously for a thorough, top-to-bottom review of the Administrative Office of the Courts’ (AOC) finances and functions. The sweeping audit of the secretive and arrogant bureaucracy has been an SEIU priority for several years.
As the only government entity in California (along with its alleged oversight body, the Judicial Council) that is not subject to the state’s open government laws, the AOC does not need to account for its spending or financial decisions -- and it doesn’t. This resulted in a $500 million loss thanks to the database boondoggle known as the California Court Management System (CCMS), as well as monstrous construction projects with huge cost overruns and other disasters that can’t even be tracked.
Meanwhile, the AOC has cut funding for local trial courts -- causing mass layoffs, closing courtrooms and severely reducing legal services for the public. This has raised the ire of the California Legislature, which is responsible for court funding as part of the state budget and which itself must adhere to the accountability and scrutiny of open government laws.
The audit will include a review of whether the AOC is funneling money to the trial courts as legally required; whether more can be sent there, whether it is spending its funds “in the most effective manner,” and if its staffing is bloated. The audit instructions concluded with an open-ended provision to also “review and assess any other issues that are significant to the audit.”
The extent of legislators' disgust with the AOC’s arrogant abuse of power was quietly displayed at the March 12 JLAC hearing. After listening to testimony from SEIU, AFSCME, the Laborers union, the California Federation of Labor and the Alliance of California Judges, as well as some AOC apologists, the committee dispensed with its customary discussion and moved swiftly to a vote. Every Democrat and every Republican on the committee voted for the audit.
“We have the bipartisan attention of the legislature, and now this audit should relieve Governor Brown’s concerns about court accountability,” said Debbi Pearson, secretary of the SEIU 1021 Court Industry Council and president of the Alameda Superior Court chapter, who testified at the hearing. “We are set up for our next move -- lobbying the legislature in the next two months to get back the trial court funding that has been cut over the last few years.”

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