California News

Lawmakers grill court body over pricey projects

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Administrative Office of the Courts was on the hot seat Wednesday as lawmakers grilled the organization which overseas the statewide affairs and budget of California's courts about its pricey projects.

Most of the questions dealt with the estimated $1.3 billion price tag of the computer system that is intended to link all of the courts in California. The computer system has been controversial because of its glitches, cost and delays.

Sacramento's judges want to dump it.

"In Sacramento it didn't work; it's been woefully misbegotten and badly executed," Sacramento presiding Judge Steve White said.

Judge Kent Hamlin of Fresno also testified.

"This particular system has just run amok; there are no price controls, it's just a blank check to the developer," he said.

AOC official Ron Overholt said judges in leadership positions support the system, even though all of the judges who spoke Wednesday had problems with it.

"They're representing themselves and have a point of view and they're entitled to express it," Overholt said.

"It just seems outrageous that a computer system that was initially talked about for $260 million is now $1.3 billion and you still can't justify cost or the expense," San Diego Assm. Nathan Fletcher said. Fletcher sits on the committee which led Wednesday's questioning.

The committee also took up another controversial issue, the costs of maintaining the state's courthouses and facilities.

On the minds of the legislators were expenses like the ones Assm. Audra Strickland brought up.

"There are charges in here for emptying trash cans, there are charges in here, $175, for cleaning an ashtray," she said.

And of course, there is the well-publicized $8,000 to remove gum from the entrance to the Sacramento courthouse.

Overholt said it was more than just removing gum.

"It was not just gum on the sidewalks, that sounds silly, and it would be, but if we had the whole work order, it's a much larger project than that," he said.

Among those testifying was whistleblower Michael Paul, who was fired last month. Paul filed a taxpayer's lawsuit charging fraud, waste and abuse and is seeking to recover the wasted funds.

The AOC apparently did not want the hearing to take place. One committee member told ABC7 they made a full court press to stop it.

But one thing the AOC or the Judicial Council cannot stop is the results of a legislative audit that is coming out this fall.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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