AOC Investigates Accounting Errors That May Lead To Court Staff Layoffs

Oh, dear.  If this weren’t so damn tragic I’d be laughing my arse off.  San Mateo County Superior Court (SMCSC) employees got bad news last week Thursday when they were told by their court administrators that the court had been operating with a $3.89 million deficit in last year’s budget.  But the bad news for court employees got even worse when they were told that as a result of the $3.89 million deficit the court had no other option than to layoff employees to make up for the court’s miscounting.

SEIU Local 521, the union that represents court employees, held a rally today to protest the court’s frakup that may potentially lead to layoffs.  But what the union and its court employee members are also protesting is that the Administrative Office of the Courts, (cue The Imperial March) is the agency that is leading the investigation into this accounting error.   Khanh Weinberg, a spokesperson for SEIU is quoted in a Mercury News article about the layoffs opposing the AOC’s involvement in any investigation because the review would be “not truly independent.”  Yeah.  There’s an understatement.

And to support Weinberg’s assertion you need only look to a Daily Journal article written by Dhyana Levey who quotes a court employee who says the fault lies not only with SMCSC but with the AOC as well.

“We use their system to report all of our deposits,” said Annette Ruiz-Vides, a fiscal office specialist for the court’s accounting division. “[AOC] has access to all of these numbers, so I can’t understand how this deficit could have occurred without anyone seeing it way before it happened.”

A very valid point Ms. Ruiz-Videz.  It’s one thing if someone in the San Mateo Superior Court finance department totally fraked up.  It’s quite another if that frakup could be blamed on the accounting system implemented by the AOC.  Add to that the realization that surely SOMEONE at the AOC would have been checking the numbers to make sure they all added up.  Cuz you know the AOC likes to make sure it’s getting it’s share of all county court monies.

And aside from the ineptitude of the finance department, the AOC Watcher is not quite sure what to make of Chief Executive Officer John Fitton’s performance during this debacle.  When news of the accounting frakup first appeared, Mr. Fitton claimed that the budget cuts were partly to blame.  Again, a quote from the Mercury News article.

Fitton emphasized that state budget cuts played a role in the shortfall, with the San Mateo County Superior Court losing about $2 million last fiscal year.

This is absolutely laughable because as Mr. Fitton and the court issued a press release saying the need for layoffs was due to severe budget cutbacks from the state, it had sent out an email earlier that Thursday to all court employees admitting that the real fault lay with the finance department when they discovered the horrifying truth that last year’s budget had not been balanced.  Well?  Which is it Mr. Fitton?  Who should court employees really be upset with?  The state for imposing budget cuts or your finance department?  It seems Mr. Fitton has a talent for discrepancies as much as his finance department.

And this whole sad affair leaves us with more questions.  What is the AOC going to do about this?  Is this their fault because of their accounting system or does the blame lay squarely with the SMCSC finance department?  And if it’s the latter, why didn’t the AOC notice that their books were not balanced?  Will the AOC appoint an outside party to conduct an audit of what happened?  And will the AOC do as the union and its members are requesting and cover the shortfall to prevent a loss of jobs?

Which only opens up a can of worms for the AOC.  Because if they do decide to cover SMCSC’s loss, why shouldn’t they be able to cover the shortfall of every other county?  You know.  Perhaps by moving some of those millions the AOC has got squared away for its software program?  Inquiring minds want to know.

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3 responses to “AOC Investigates Accounting Errors That May Lead To Court Staff Layoffs

  1. So if I understand this mess.

    The AOC provides funding to the County Courts. However instead of doing that. They are keeping the money to pay for a questionable computer system and to build new courthouses?

    What’s the point of a computer system or a new courthouse if there’s no one inside to run it?

  2. San Mateo Court Fan

    What makes this story so unreal is that the San Mateo court has a track record and reputation as being one of the best run courts in the state. They are one of the few ‘donor’ courts in the state meaning they contribute excess operating funds back to the AOC and they have done so year after year. So either they managed to fool everyone over time or there is something else going on entirely. Say it ain’t so.

  3. Wanda Watcher

    Smoke and mirrors…a trick worthy of the Great Houdini!
    All eyes watch the sword drop down, down, down on the 60 innocents below….Quick! Look to the wings…the Slayer and his HandMaiden give one last sneer and then turn to run with the Golden Loot stashed here, there, over there, everywhere…the pockets are laden…the Grim disappear.