AOC Takes Control of Courthouses from Counties

Back when one particular court I have in mind down south was transitioning from county control to AOC control, there was a procedure wherein those working there had to contact the AOC regarding building issues. So instead of calling the maintenance department in their building, they had to call a person in charge who would then follow a procedure laid out by the AOC. The sheer ridiculousness of it all inspired me to come up with the following:

Question: How many people does it take to change a light bulb in a superior court courtroom?

Answer: Four.

Person One:    Person One notices a light bulb is out in the courtroom and calls a specific supervisor (Person Two) to report that the light bulb in the courtroom needs to be changed.

Person Two:   Person Two, the supervisor, then contacts the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) located in another building miles away to ask permission of Person Three to call the maintenance department within the courthouse to change the light bulb in the courtroom.

Person Three:   Person Three, otherwise known as “AOC person in charge of light bulb change request,” reviews the request and either grants or denies it. (Not known whether this person has to seek permission from some other person above them i.e. the person who grants permission to the person who grants permission for light bulb changing.) If the request is granted, Person Three then contacts the maintenance department in the courthouse located miles away and submits request that they change the light bulb.

Person Four:   The maintenance person in charge of changing light bulbs then reports to courtroom to change light bulb.

Now, it became apparent to me that what the AOC was doing was trying to do was log how many times people in a particular courthouse were contacting the engineering department for various repairs. The AOC was now in charge of building maintenance and they wanted to get an idea of how much they would be spending in man-hours, repairs, and equipment. Although for the life of me I’m not sure why the AOC didn’t just request copies of all the logs that the engineers kept of all the work orders.  What resulted during this transition period was this weird effect of building engineers not wanting to change so much as the thermostat unless people had, in their words, cleared their requests with Sacramento i.e. the AOC.  As one person working in that courthouse wondered, “What if a pipe bursts and water overflows into the halls?  Are we supposed to check with the AOC first whether we can call the engineers to repair it while we swim for the hills?”  An exaggeration of course, but I think you get the point.

Another reader by the name of crtwatcher posted a couple observations about the AOC’s takeover of courthouses and maintenance that definitely gave me some food for thought.  Is it possible that in the AOC’s mad grab to control courthouses they wound up biting off more than they can chew?

– The primary reason for the AOC’s push to take over facilites was the counties lacked sufficient funds to maintain courthouses and build new ones. However, because the standards for a building to transfer were so minimal, the AOC basically accepted the buildings in an “as-is” condition and assumed full liability for deferred maintenance.

– The AOC had no experience in the management of 500 facilities spread throughout the state. The staff and administration did not exist. Currently, most faciltiy maintenance is performed by contract maintenance companies rather than AOC employees. Another factor in CFP calculation was the cost to the county in terms of its staff to maintain teh courthouses. I am relatively confident that the hourly rate the AOC pays its maintenance vendors is much higher than what the county paid its own employees to perform the same services. This does not take into account the AOC’s administrative cost of overseeing the vendors’ contract and work.

You can read the rest of crtwatcher’s thoughts by scrolling down to the comments section in this post.

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