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AOC Departures Continue

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Another high-level member of the California's judicial bureaucracy, Ken Kann, is heading for the door. The announcement came in an email sent Wednesday and followed by one day the news that agency director William Vickrey is leaving in August.

"He acted as gatekeeper for information to the Judicial Council," said a former member of the council.

His job included handling the agenda for Judicial Council meetings and he had a hand in the nomination of the council's members.

In rapid succession, Kann's departure followed the resignation of director Vickrey which in turn followed shortly after last week's pledge by new Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to conduct a "top to bottom" review of the courts administrative agency.

After growing steadily in size and power, the Administrative Office of the Courts has in recent months become mired in controversy over its spending and efforts to increase the power of bureaucrats over local presiding judges.

A review of court records shows that Kann was named as a defendant in a suit filed last year, brought by a former AOC employee who complained of lavish spending by court bureaucrats, and was shown the door.

The plaintiff, Jack Urquhart, alleged that he was forced into retirement after he complained about the agency's spending practices. According to his complaint in San Francisco Superior Court, Urquhart "specifically reported concerns of waste for hotel meeting facilities, special receptions, wine tastings, graphic illustrators, caricaturists, and other items as excessive, uneconomical or wasteful."

He said in his court papers that he was told to plan an AOC event "without any attention to economizing, even after cut backs in court services." He brought his concern to his bosses, said Urquhart, "to no avail."

He said Kann emailed him to tell him he had no other choice but to retire after Urquhart took his claims to the press, according to the complaint which settled last March for $53,000.

The notice of Kann's departure was via email from Vickrey to current members of the Judicial Council on Wednesday afternoon. He had worked as managing attorney for the Office of the General Counsel, before becoming director of the AOC division that handles interpreters, the library and public information.

"As you know," said Vickrey, "Ken and his team also directly support the Judicial Council, handling business and issues meeting agendas, the strategic planning process, and annual membership nominations process."

"Our executive team and the entire AOC will feel the loss of Ken's expertise and leadership," said Vickrey, adding that he wishes Kann "the very best as he embraces the new opportunities that retirement will bring."

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