Waste Alleged in California Courts

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Millions of tax dollars are being wasted on court construction and maintenance projects, an employee of the administrative arm of California’s judicial branch claims in Superior Court. Michael Paul claims that his complaints about “a cover-up of fraud, waste and abuse happening within the judicial branch” fell on deaf ears.

     Paul, a senior technical analyst for the Administrative Office of the Courts, claims the AOC hired unlicensed contractors to update and repair a Riverside courthouse’s computer-based electrical system and overpaid them hundreds of dollars.
     The seven contractors named in his complaint include Jacobs Management Co., Jacobs Facilities and American Building Management.
     Paul claims that from December 2007 to July 2009, he also questioned contractors who charged, and were paid, $1,000 per square foot to build courthouses. He claims the AOC facilities management team that supervised the projects ignored his emails. Paul claims that he finally received a response in 2009 from Jerry Pfab of the Office of the Court and Management, “demanding that he cease and desist from telling others about the unlicensed contractors who were overcharging.”
     Paul claims he took his concerns to the AOC’s Internal Auditing supervisor, with whom he exchanged emails on the deficient licenses, and to whom he sent estimates from other contractors that were much lower than the AOC was paying.
     “While these discussions took place, the contractors continued to receive millions of dollars illegally for services that required a contractor’s license,” Paul says in his complaint.
     By December 2009, with no real action from the AOC, Paul says, he wrote to William Vickrey, executive director of the AOC, Ron Overholt, the AOC’s assistant director, and Chief Justice Ronald George.
     Paul claims that Vickrey sent an email to the state’s presiding judges and members of the Judicial Council, “acknowledging that a whistleblower had ‘properly reported’ unlicensed statewide activity.”
     Two days later, Paul says, the California attorney general sued two unlicensed contractors on behalf of the AOC.
Still, Paul says, the AOC ordered him to stop his investigations and denied him access to public records.
     The AOC said in a statement that Paul’s “lawsuit is without merit and we welcome the opportunity to prove that in court. The contractors with which the AOC is doing business are now properly licensed and have been for some time.”
     The AOC declined to provide interviews with Vickrey and Overholt, but said that the lawsuits it filed in December 2009 are still pending.
Paul seeks an injunction ordering the AOC and the allegedly unlicensed contractors to cease “any further wasteful and illegal expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars.”
     He is represented by Nancy Hersh.

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