More compelling reasons for a forensic JC|AOC audit

Posted on March 8, 2014

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It’s time for change

Since our inception over 600 articles and about three and a half years ago we have made every effort to disseminate truthful information to offset the Judicial Council’s awesome propaganda machine of lies, deceit and half-truths.

At one time this propaganda machine was larger than any newsroom in the state and was churning out more trash than waste management. With your assistance and the assistance of local courts, judges, unions, AOC employees and other news outlets across the state we were able to expose this propaganda machine for what it was.

Collectively we exposed the credibility gap.

For some time there we were able to impeach every talking head that the judicial council tossed out to mislead you. With the help of others we were able to encourage the council to dismantle most of their propaganda machine in support of what they believed was a better idea…….

That better idea was to use judges and justices to be spokespersons and tow the party line in place of the AOC ministry of truth and public enlightenment. Much like the original ministry of truth and enlightenment they came to the conclusion that it wasn’t good enough to have salaried lackeys over at the AOC carry the message. It was important for the judicial council leadership team themselves to start promoting the message as they perceived that this would cure a growing credibility gap.

And the credibility gap continued to grow at an even more accelerated rate.

To bolster their own defenses, they came out with a series of rules of court to stifle non-leadership judges and justices from speaking out about the issues that concern the rest of the branch most. They reworked their public information request processing to ensure that the legal team over at the AOC was in on every public records request and would supply what the office of communications would ultimately turn over. This is why every request is treated as if it were a deposition question. Don’t ask precisely the right question and you’re not going to get the answers you were looking for. Even if you do ask precisely the right question you can rest assured that you will be supplied with the answer they want you to have which often has no relation to facts. They even launched a bogus fact check web page so that they could enshrine their lies, deceit and half-truths in an attempt to end discussion on certain topics.

They made it an ethics violation for a judge to advocate open courtrooms over court construction. They wanted to charge the media and everyone else ten dollars per records search for retrieving records that should be posted on their website and should be free. They want to do everything possible to preserve the status quo so they configured a gauntlet of Ben Shockley proportions to public information requests. When asked to open their meetings to the public they configured other gauntlets.

Ask a sensitive question and you can rest assured that you won’t be getting any answer from the AOC. Rather, your sensitive question will be forwarded to Justice Harry Hull who, as an outer-orbiter of the AOC influence belt will require you to chisel your question on a stone tablet and hire wells fargo to deliver it via pony express because the technophobe doesn’t have a clue when it comes to operating a computer. (as a side note: This makes him eminently more qualified that Justice Bruiniers or Judge Herman as a potential leader of the technology committee but I digress…)

In previous legislative audit requests, they were able to successfully lobby to narrow those audit requests so that they were almost meaningless and told us what most of us already suspected. Every year we’ve stated that the specified very narrow audits don’t go far enough. They’re typically only about a recent snapshot in time. CCMS. Compliance with public contract code on purchases. Family court records.

No, what the branch needs is the mother of all audits that goes back a minimum of ten years and touches every dollar that the AOC collects and has spent and also investigates every whistleblower report filed with the Bureau of State Audits.

They then need to follow the money and see who is really benefiting from some of these transactions because as the construction debacle has shown, you don’t intentionally hire and grossly overpay unlicensed contractors to do statewide maintenance from the Oregon border to the Mexican border unless someone way high up is getting something out of it.

When you launch simulated litigation to cover up for your misdeeds that pretty much confirms everyone’s worst nightmare.

The same holds true of a huge embezzlement wherein a crime report was never filed with anyone but it was acknowledged by the executive director with a fraudulent declaration that the DA (Now AG) refused to prosecute. We have checked with the judicial protection unit and other CHP at 455 Golden Gate who all watched that hearing of the Assembly committee of Accountability & Administrative Review.

Up until that point, not a single sworn officer at 455 Golden Gate Avenue had any idea an embezzlement took place. The first they heard of it was the hearing they watched on Cal Channel.

We checked with the San Francisco Sheriff’s department and the San Francisco Police Department. We even checked with George Gascon’s office of the district attorney to find out if any such report had ever been made. We would invite the state auditor to also search for this elusive crime report because it does not exist. Even the AOC admits that they don’t have a copy of it. Mind you, it’s not a personnel issue, they state they don’t have any record of any crime report. We would then ask the state auditor to not only follow the money, but follow the project the previously convicted felon was working on as he was alleged to have been hired to hide another blatant misuse of workers compensation funds held in trust for the trial courts.

While they’re at it, they need to check why the AOC entered into the 2.3 billion dollar Long Beach Courthouse deal and what insiders benefited from agreeing to pay about two million dollars a month in rent. They need to look at why Contra Costa got the fifth courthouse build when they were previously so far down the list that it would never be built. They need to look at every land purchase made by the AOC for courthouses and figure out which insiders cashed in on those purchases.

While not as visible as a courthouse, the state auditor needs the opportunity to pour through all records of the court maintenance program because something just isn’t right about spending over $175,000.00 per courtroom to supply audience seating in courtrooms 101, 102 and 103 of the Solano County Hall of Justice when thousands of other pressing maintenance issues go begging for cash. Or $2,000.00 per lamp to retrofit T12 lamps with T8 bulbs when a conversion kit can be had for eighty bucks.

Here’s the rub on the lamp retrofits:  According to AOC employees the retrofits were never completed but the vendors got paid anyways….. why is that?

Is it because they don’t expect Elaine Howle to pop ceiling tiles and ensure that the retrofit kits have been applied? Probably. In any case there is plausible deniability by AOC management. The AOC can toss these same managers and supervisors in front of auditors and claim they didn’t know or weren’t aware.

Talk to the AOC’s worker bees.These managers and supervisors knew and they were aware.

In fact, it is these managers and supervisors that specified that the overpriced vendors would be used and it was the supervisors and managers who would kill reports that paint anything less than a rosy picture.

To their credit, we owe the conscientious worker bees of the AOC thanks for attempting to mitigate these outlandish costs even as their supervisors and managers override common sense with decisions that are alleged to have come “from the top” to use specific, grossly overpriced vendors to do this work even when other bids come in at a fraction of the cost.

It is these same conscientious AOC workers who are BEGGING for the court maintenance program to be audited including the vendors as they suspect that these outlandish costs are actually resulting in kickbacks to those at the top of the food chain. 

You’ll note that Tonto disappeared out of state soon after this claimed constitutional officer and his many home remodeling jobs came to light by saying he was a distraction.

We respectfully submit that it was far more than just a distraction and suggest those remodeling jobs also be put under BSA’s microscope.

As we have stated many times, the two areas where fraud is prevalent in government contracting are software development fraud and construction fraud. So we find it truly amazing that the state legislature should exempt both areas from any and all oversight and exempt anything related to construction from public contract code. What’s even more shocking is that after a half a billion dollars of public funds is wasted, they remain unconcerned that there is no oversight or rigorous checks and balances. Rather, they let the coordinator of fraud, waste and abuse who works for the finance director be the sole source of audits!

The fox overseeing other foxes in a hen house full of chickens.

Now onward to the court construction program: We know that 2.3 billion dollars plus has been committed to the long beach courthouse over the next 35 years. If we fairly subtracted this project considering the cost of funds, the AOC should only have about 3.7 billion to spend on other courthouses. 500 million here, 700 million there and so on and so forth, we don’t think that the AOC has any money left to build anymore courthouses should long beach stay on the books but unfortunately the legislature has not subtracted Long Beach from the 5 billion dollars in courthouse bond funding.

Yet they should do exactly that because that would be holding the judicial council – and not 3,750 convicted traffic scofflaws per calendar day- accountable for their decisions.

Add these overspent funds to the more than 8 billion in uncollected citation debt and the judicial council is digging a deep hole in the state budget because lots of this uncollected debt was earmarked to pay for the courthouse program.

It’s amazing that an unpaid parking citation can tag your registration cost or result in your tax return being levied to pay the parking citation but the same collection route does not apply to any citation moving through the California court system. Instead, civil assessments and increased fines and fees are added and sent out to specialized collection agencies that are run by former judges who make serious bank for doing nothing but waiting until an offender wants their drivers license back. And who do you think endorses this “enhanced collection” activity by expanding the use of expensive collection agencies instead of the state franchise tax board? Yes, you probably guessed correctly, the Judicial Council of California’s administrative office of the courts.Yet it costs the state almost nothing to garnish a tax return. 

The judicial council’s treatment of judicial branch employees not as part of the team but members of the public at large

Here is a letter pointing out how low it was for the Judicial Council to turn away court employees who took time off to travel and speak at the last judicial council meeting from the SEIU, who ALSO is concerned about this shadow government that is accountable to no one. (Click Here)

And the reply? Thank you for bringing to my attention an instance where members of the public were unable to make comments at the February 20 judicial council meeting. (Link Here)

Of course we expected such a reply because they treat judges and justices that aren’t a part of their little insider clique as members of the public as well. Doesn’t that arrogance underscore the real problem? They have zero interest in actually representing the courts! They represent ONLY their little leadership clique and their purposeful existence is dole out public funds for projects based solely upon how many brown-nosers can be found among your courts staff. Just ask Justice (“CCMS works but we can’t prove it”) Bruiniers and Councilmember Judge Mary Ann O’Build Build Build which just goes to show that if your nose is demonstrably brown enough even you can become a member of “Team George” It also demonstrates how a courthouse that would have never been built under the previous courthouse priority list jumped to number five in priority. Previously there were over 50 projects more deserving than Contra Costa Counties’ east county courthouse.

Meanwhile, Sacramento court employees get to spend years looking at an empty lot where a courthouse would have been built because that court didn’t keep its judges on a tight leash while parroting their team george lines like compliant little lemmings.

Courthouse construction became a judicial branch political animal the minute SB1407 was approved by the legislature. Straddled with the burden of Long Beach rent payments, it has become more of a political animal than ever before.

Here is our own version of fact check:

California’s Judicial Council of California and their Administrative office of the courts office of court construction and management together work as both a developer and one of the states largest real estate holding entities. That is unprecedented and you won’t find that anywhere else in the United States due to the inherent conflicts of interest in handing over billions in bond money to an entity that is accountable to no one. Worse, without any authority they take it upon themselves to exceed that amount by 2.3 billion dollars in Long Beach.

Nobody in California spends more per square foot for court construction than the AOC does. Counties build less expensive courthouses, the department of general services builds less expensive courthouses and the gsa’s federal court construction program builds less expensive courthouses. When you tell the world you have 750 million dollars to spend on a courthouse, the world will find a way to spend it for you and you’re not going to save a dime on that project. Contrast that to all of the other entities that get bids before seeking funds from congress or the state legislature. The AOC utilizes their own internal flawed estimates based on erroneous data to derive off the charts estimates for court construction. Expensive architects envelope huge, useless spaces that need to be heated and cooled but they “portray the majestic grandeur worthy of a court of law”. Instead of solar panels in the parking lot powering the buildings and offsetting the huge costs of heating and cooling dead space, they double down on extra costs by put high maintenance green roofs on them.Then they go out and hire a CM at risk that is all too happy to spend what they estimated because the estimate was outlandish in the first place.  $1,900.00 per square foot? Give me a break!

ALL OF THIS SHOULD BE AUDITED BY THE STATE AUDITOR

No. We’re not done yet.

Salaries, benefits, lodging and travel expenses

According to our records, all four of the leadership team of the AOC lives in Sacramento. The Chief Justice acquired a San Francisco loft. There remains quite a bit of speculation that one or more of these people pays for San Francisco real estate by expensing it to the taxpayers.

Others, like Curt Child who accepted a job in San Francisco is somehow able to expense his commute to the office along with tolls, mileage and hotel stays should he not feel up to commuting. On top of that, Curt is one of the blessed, with 100% of his pension contribution paid for by the taxpayers. There are others that derive these benefits, yet the AOC rank and file would never be able to submit many of these expenses themselves. Neither would any court employee. Yet the state controllers office, who will happily tell us all what everyone’s salaries are considers state paid employee pension contributions a matter of privacy. WTF!

It is for all of these reasons and more that a deep forensic audit is essential. If they refuse to cooperate or produce much like we expect they will, then the AOC will need to be completely dismantled and the judicial council democratized, which is what most of us believe is necessary anyways. We just want it to happen before all of the public money disappears.