The media continues to hunt down judges not participating in voluntary salary waiver program. And the AOC is more than happy to turn over names.
Well, readers. All I can say is, I told you so! Last week the Daily Journal printed an article about how the majority of judges in LA Superior Court were participating in the AOC’s voluntary salary waiver program (VSW). A program in which judicial officers would give up a day’s pay for each court closure day. The article also published the names seven judges and 29 commisioners who did not participate in the program. As an added bonus the Daily Journal also printed the photos of five of the judges. You know. So you could put a face to the name. I said in my post that I suspected this was just the beginning of a judicial witch hunt to find out who has and hasn’t participated. And now a little bird has given me a bit of news that has confirmed my suspicion.
A reporter from the legal newspaper The Recorder has been poking around one Bay Area court asking which judges have participated in the salary giveback program. Apparently this reporter is writing an article that will cover several Bay Area county courts. But here’s the kicker. This reporter is barking up the wrong tree. The agency that has the names of which judge has or hasn’t participated is not the individual court where the judge presides. So which agency has the list of names? Well, there are two and one is the State Controller’s Office. The other? Bingo! The AOC. And will the AOC turn over the list of names to the public and media if they ask? We all know the answer to that one.
In an email sent out by the AOC July 22nd, in which they detailed how the voluntary salary waiver program was going to work, the AOC provided some FAQs answers to questions about the program. And one of the FAQ questions/answers explains how the AOC is going to handle any request for information on which judges have or haven’t participated in the VSW program.
Question: How will the SCO (State Controller’s Office) and AOC respond to a public inquiry about the names of participants in the VSW program?
Answer: The AOC has discussed with the SCO its policy on disclosing the names of participants in the VSW (voluntary salary waiver) program. SCO staff at the Division Chief level has informed AOC staff that the SCO would release the names of participants upon request in the same manner in which the SCO would treat a public request for information about members of the Legislature who decline to receive full salary.
The AOC would also release, upon request, the names of participants in the VSW program and the extent of their participation. This is consistent with the AOC’s policy regarding public access to information and records, which generally is consistent with the requirements of the Public Records Act.
I have a couple comments here. The first is this. I’ve said it in my previous post and I’ll say it again, I salute those judges that have participated or plan to participate in the VSW program. But this is a temporary diversion from the real issue that the media and public should be focusing on and that’s the AOC past and current spending habits. What is the point of harassing the judges about the VSW program when there are still MILLIONS of dollars that the AOC has in its coffers that it could have used to prevent the closures to begin with? Is this reporter from The Recorder going to write an article about that? I certainly hope so. And the AOC Watcher just knows that the AOC will be more than happy to help provide the media with ANY information that will take the spotlight away from them. And to the AOC’s benefit they can claim they’re doing so in the name of “public access.”
And my second comment has to do with the last sentence in the second paragraph in the AOC’s answer to the question. I’ll post it here again, bold it, and quote it.
This is consistent with the AOC’s policy regarding public access to information and records, which generally is consistent with the requirements of the Public Records Act.
Really? The AOC has a policy in providing public access to information? Well, that must come as news to those who have been hammering the AOC for years to get them to open their books. But it’s nice to know that the AOC has a policy regarding “public access to records and information.” Too bad it’s a policy they appear to exercise only when it benefits them.