Jon Streeter is the President of the State Bar of California. Earlier this year Mr. Streeter drafted a compelling comment regarding the Administrative Office of the Courts and AOC management in particular. His
recommendations comments regarding AOC management and the parallel to state bar management have been echoed far and wide and represent what should occur at the Administrative Office of the Courts.
So why hasn’t it happened?
Loose Lips Sink Ships.
Having a bunch of senior management dismissed runs the risk that whatever these people are up to would be exposed. And I think we all know what these people are up to but as long as those managers remain in power and are only subtly re-arranging the deck chairs with roughly the same management team, the secrets regarding the corruption are safe. In the meantime, salaries exceeding 150K and 100% AOC paid pension benefits, free parking at the parking garages across the street, free cell phones, free iPads and the myriad of other benefits bestowed this leadership team is something that they could never achieve anywhere else.
Of course, most of us can find easy comparisons to a company in bankruptcy proceedings like Hostess passing out fat bonuses to keep their “valuable management team on board” who chooses to liquidate the company only after the fat bonuses are doled out. The difference is that this is a government entity and not even 2 consecutive 2 billion dollar boondoggles results in any meaningful reorganization and the taxpayer money keeps on flowing to the detriment of every citizen and every court that is guilty by none other than association. And what gets liquidated? The California Courts system.
Jon Streeter’s argument for shaking up the entire management team is so compelling that we felt that it needed to be a separate post. While we don’t agree with many of Mr. Streeters conclusions, the shake up with state bar management was as necessary as a shake-up of AOC management is today.
Unfortunately, as long as the money flows through the AOC the AOC exists to take their cut and pass on what is left to the trial courts. Mr. Streeter opines that a large layoff of AOC personnel would be necessary as a result of last years budget cuts. But we have seen neither any management shake-up (indeed, the same management team is still firmly in place save Vickrey, Overholt, Nash, Fuentes and Moore and more than half of those positions they occupied were eliminated.) nor anything but a changing of titles and as Jon puts it, a re-arranging of blocks on the org chart, which brings us to todays org chart.
Prior to reorganization, you could look at the AOC’s site and see who was attached to each one of those blocks on the org chart. Today, where transparency is the alleged word of the day, all we see are blocks representing offices within the AOC. No staff are connected or attached to those blocks.
While some would argue that we should continue to wait another year for the AOC to finish their reorg, our trial courts are given no such luxury. Their budgets are axed and they’re forced to immediately make cuts, close down courtrooms and whole courthouses and lay off personnel.
Meanwhile, for every person laid off at the AOC, the AOC hires two replacements. While the AOC also took a haircut on their budget, their budget was bloated long, long before the current economics ever became an issue. In reality, the AOC did not need to lay off a single person and still has the budget available to keep on hiring and passing out MSA’s and raises like they never had any budget cut. The AOC’s layoffs were token at best and by all internal accounts, nothing has really changed in the way they do business internally. The AOC is used to reorgs. In every reorg thus far, the AOC has found it within themselves to create new offices and create new management positions to man those offices. But you couldn’t tell this by those tiny little squares on the org chart because there is intentionally no disclosure regarding these changes. By all accounts the management ranks continue to grow.
If the state legislature and the governor got together tomorrow and made the decision to shave the AOC’s budget by 30% and redirect those monies, some 60 million to the trial courts, those managers might have to wait an extra year to upgrade their iPads but their core employment would remain untouched. To force the AOC into a layoff situation, their budget would need to be cut in excess of 50% or 100 million dollars. Only then would you see an AOC that was placed in the same predicament as our courts.
There is no doubt in our mind and in the minds of many others that the current course of reorg has no credibility whatsoever. It matters not that JC members tout the hard work done by the AOC because their work product isn’t the point.
Accountability is the point. And so far, no one has seen even a shred of accountability. And the boondoggles continue and are fiercely defended by the council.
’tis the season for budget negotiations and change. And that 50% redirection of AOC funds needs to happen sooner, rather than later. Fire needs to be presented in such a fashion that it compels change for left to their own devices, it should be obvious that we should expect to see more of the same. More mismanagement. More boondoggles, less transparency and less accountability.One only needs to review recent events to know that all of the evidence continues to point in this direction.
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