SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - After a stern rebuke from legislators over the California State Auditor's conclusion that the Judicial Council failed to properly oversee its staff bureaucracy, judges on the council's top committee met Thursday to confront the auditor's conclusion that significant changes still hadn't been made.
The Judicial Council is the rulemaking body that oversees the bureaucracy of the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Judges on the Judicial Council's top committee met to address the auditor's conclusion that significant changes still have not been made.
In an audit stemming from strong criticism from judges and legislators over the AOC's spendthrift ways during a period of severe cuts to the courts, state Auditor Elaine Howle found the Administrative Office of the Courts wasted of hundreds of millions of dollars that should have gone to keeping courts running, and were not held accountable by their bosses at the Judicial Council.
In testimony to legislators Wednesday , Howle quoted from an internal investigation of the AOC by a committee of judges appointed by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. In 2012, this Strategic Evaluation Committee unleashed a scathing chronicle of mismanagement and waste, calling the bureaucracy top-heavy in management, with an oversized and overpaid staff.
The committee attached a list of 124 recommendations that included a restructuring of AOC management, cuts to staff and greater oversight from the council.
Howle said the Strategic Evaluation Committee report largely mirrored her own audit, and though it is nearly three years old, her audit team found little discernible change at the bureaucracy.
"We believe, based on the history of what we've seen, so many of the recommendations we have made were made three years ago and there hasn't been significant change," Howle said.
On Thursday, the judges who sit on the council's Executive and Planning Committee combed through the Strategic Evaluation Committee's recommendations, and seemed fraught over the deep disagreement with the auditor over recommendations they thought were complete.
"It might be safer and more honest to simply say where we are in the process. If it takes a little longer to do it, so be it; we're not going to be criticized," Judge Charles Wachob from Placer County said. In addition to his membership on the Executive and Planning Committee, Wachob was chairman of the Strategic Evaluation Committee.
AOC Director Martin Hoshino said the council should mind the difference between oversight and supervision.
"I get the struggle that is going on here," Hoshino said. "The council is appropriately in an oversight role. We have to be careful that we don't put the council in an unrealistic role of direct supervision for the actual activities, actions to be taken, data and information. That rests with the organization, the staff here, to make sure there's a sufficient amount of information so the proper amount of scrutiny and questions can be asked."
The judges decided to affix to each recommendation an update on its progress and what actions have taken place, all of which will be posted on the Judicial Council website.
"The public who is grading our work as judicial overseers would be well-served and better informed," Wachob said. "Something like that will go along way toward diffusing the criticism we get for not doing our job on this."