Audit again critical of Judicial Council spending

August 30, 2012 10:50:53 PM PDT
In January, the Judicial Council, which oversees the state's courts, commissioned an independent audit to take a critical look at its court construction program after critics began to question the way it was spending public money. The commission reported back Thursday.

The Judicial Council in March killed its computer court project after a state audit blasted the system and charged the Administrative Office of the Courts with mismanaging it.

Now, another highly critical audit -- this one on California's courthouse construction program, a program ready to spend $5 billion on 40 statewide projects.

The report says the procedures lack transparency and accountability. It said further, the lack of management provided "an opportunity for confusion, misunderstanding, duplication of effort and inefficiency."

The construction program, like the now defunct computer project, is administered by the AOC, the administrative arm of the Judicial Council, the body that controls the overall budget and policies of the state's courts.

The reform group Alliance of California Judges has long been critical of the AOC.

"It's another example of the unbelievable mismanagement and inattention that the AOC has given this," Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White said.

Last year, state legislators had a field day grilling AOC's top administrators. They were outraged at the bloated level of spending in the court construction program.

Among items -- $8,000 to remove gum from a courthouse entrance, $45,000 for simple repairs to a courtroom bench and plans to spend $345,000 to remove asbestos from a vacant courthouse.

"The judicial council has a responsibility to the public as well as to the judges and it has a responsibility to manage public money responsibly, which it's not doing," White said.

The Judicial Council declined to comment on camera but issued a statement which says in part, the audit gives us "the clear direction needed to strengthen the program, improving its uniformity, transparency and accountability."


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