Legislative Committee To Review AOC

Well, well, well. I’m not exactly sure what to make of this. I had heard rumors for a few months now that there was a legislative committee that was very interested in the AOC and how it ran its operations. Now it seems the rumors are true. According to an article in the San Jose Mercury News, a committee formed last year to review waste in government agencies has set the date of October 28th to hold a hearing reviewing the AOC.

And what does the committee plan on reviewing in particular to the AOC?

The committee, formed last year to explore waste and inefficiency in state agencies, has scheduled a hearing for Oct. 28 to review the AOC, with a focus on “budget transparency, staff growth and information technology issues,” according to a committee staffer.

The assembly committee plans to look at the spending and staff growth, which has seen the AOC expand from 490 employees to 901 the past five years. The committee also is reviewing a $1.2 billion planned upgrade to the courts’ statewide technology system, which has in part been put on hold by the budget crunch.

Of course the AOC issued a statement via Curt Child, director of government affairs for the Judicial Council. “We’re certainly always ready, willing and able to make sure we respond to all legislative inquires on the courts and how the courts operate.” Oh, I’m sure they’re burning the midnight oil over at the AOC main office working on their defense. Perhaps a weekend retreat is in order where the AOC can map out their presentation for the committee. May I suggest AOC that you hold your meetings here or here since you really seemed to love both locations the last time you held meetings there.

And again, remember to set your calendars fellow AOC Watchers.  October 28th.  I know I certainly will.

Oh, and if you’d like to know more about the committee and who its members are, just click here.

23 responses to “Legislative Committee To Review AOC

  1. Legislative Committee

    It is about time! Rah, Rah, Rah for this committee and the AOC Watcher.

  2. If members show some courage here, they will do much to bring crediblity to the process. For too long, AOC had gotten their way in Sacramento by just saying, “trust us.” Many on this committee have already been lobbied by the AOC judges – you know, the ones that always carry water for them and in return are the AOC’s annointed ones.

    Now, this committee needs to ask the hard questions, both now and in the future. It also needs to recognize that the AOC punishes anyone who is viewed as its enemy and thereofore courage is at a premium.

    Watch the spin as the AOC attempt to portray itself as the victim who is only doing what the Legislature wants them to do. Hardly. The AOC always does what IT wants to do and hopes that no one is ever watching. Maybe that is about to change. Maybe not.

    This Committee has a real chance to do the right thing. If they do, much more will come tumbling out of the AOC closet. That is what the AOC is most afraid of here.

  3. Good job AOC watcher, Alliance of California Judges and courts workers!

    Does anybody know if this committee is going to look at whether they actually needed to close the courts?

    I heard that at least half of the courts in the state had plenty of money to remain open and that the AOC could have easily offset the budgets for rest.

  4. Could it be? Could it really be that the unveiling of the Judicial Hell (AOC) is really going to happen? That is of course if Bill, Ron, Ernie and their corupt mangement team have not eatin all of the evidential papertrail. Don’t be surprised if there is nothing left when the commitee gets there to do a review. GONE VANISHED INTO THIN AIR!

    IF there is anything left, and that is a big if…. what the committee would find would probably blow the lid of 455 Golden Gate Avenue. Bill has been there far too long, and has done far too much damange. A complete overhaul and overthrow would need to be done to get this agency back on track.

    I was beggining to wonder if this would ever happen, and now for one brief flitting moment in time, there is hope.

    Committee, get ready for Hide and Seek, they are not going down easy.

  5. Question: What is an elephant?

    Answer: A mouse built by the AOC.

    Remind anyone of CCMS?

  6. Any contact with the committee is confidential and your identity will not disclosed. If anyone has information and/or documents that would shed some light on the AOC/JC in general or CCMS in particular, they should contact the committee’s staff.

  7. While I am glad someone is going to attempt to bring the inter workings of the AOC to light, how does a legislative committee have the authority to investigate a seperate branch of government? While I know the legislature holds the purse strings and that in itself is a powerful tool, can this committee really do anything to force the AOC to open itself up for critisim or really do anything meaningful?

  8. Impartial Observer

    My understanding is that much of the authority granted to the AOC has been through legislative action. Therefore, the Legislature can take away some of that authority or impose certain new requirements on the AOC, etc.

  9. Judicial observer

    From the view of many judges around the state, the problems at the AOC are a result of the lax oversight by the body constitutionally charged with that responsibility, the Judicial Council.

    This is because almost all of the members of this internally powerful body are appointed directly by the Chief Justice. There is no democracy in the selection of the trial court judicial members and there exists perceived lack of understanding and input by those appointed in addressing and controlling the AOC budget decisions. Coupled with this is the additional perception that the AOC Director and his top management are voicing the desires of the Chief Justice. As such the Chief Justice’s self appointed Council simply “rubber stamps” the AOC budget policy requests without much debate. (One would be hard pressed to find decent on any vote taken by this counsel).

    The legislature, if they understand this structural problem, can vote to place a Constitutional amendment on the ballot allowing a more democratically chosen Judicial Council. One on which there can be members who are elected by and responsive to the needs of the trial courts and not the desires and agendas of only the leadership based in San Francisco.

    A recommendation by this committee to seek such democracy allowing a voice in the budget policy decision of the AOC would go a long way toward achieving this needed change.

    • Judicial observer

      (One would be hard pressed to find decent on any vote taken by this counsel). Meant to say “one would be hard pressed to find dissent on any vote taken by this Council).

  10. Word on the street is that the the Legislative hearing is going to be a battle and that the AOC plans to produce several witnesses who will say the dissenters are just a bunch of out of power disgruntled judges and employees. So if you care show up on the 28th and tell the Legislature what is really going on.

  11. If they are dumb enough to try to attack judges and staff as just disgruntled folks, much, much more will be made will be coming their way and the need for further public hearings will be obvious. There are many cards to be played and the AOC house odds will be lost.

    If true, BRING IT ON!

  12. Be Prepared and Judicial Watcher are both correct. The issues go beyond problems in the HR division at the AOC or even CCMS. Those problems are symptoms of a bureaucracy that has lacked oversight. The lack of oversight is a direct result of the members of the JC being appointed almost entirely by the Chief Justice and the sheer volume of information those members must digest before making a decision. The members have to rely on AOC staff because they do not have the time or background in court administration to fully understand the impact of their decisions. It is difficult to imagine that a JC member who had been fully briefed on the costs and development of CCMS , the positive and negative, would vote to continue to provide funding for it without at least asking the questions being asked here.

    The AOC contends it is just carrying out the policy directives of the JC, as it continues with CCMS, facilities, etc. It may be true that at some point the JC made a policy decision that there should be a statewide case managment system. However, I wonder how many of the JC members who voted in favor of this policy would have done so if they knew the AOC had never performed a cost/benefit analysis, the AOC ignored the cautionary recommendations in the 2004 LAO report, the system would cost over a billion dollars, that the planning was so poor that the system is not completed almost 8 years later, because the AOC never had the money to pay for the system and did not take any risk mitigation measures it may be another 10 years before the system is deployed in all the courts in the state, etc.

    The governance structure of the JC needs to be changed. No one person should have such total control of an entire branch of state government. When the JC was established its primary function was to adopt rules of procedure and practice for litigants and attorneys. It was never expected that this same body would be making public policy decisions involving billions of dollars.

  13. justice for all

    Really, the problem is a failure of leadership at every level, from top to bottom.

    I have worked at the AOC for over 15 years now and I don’t believe that I have ever seen morale at such a low level.

    Morale is not something that an employee creates for herself. It is something that develops when employees are valued and made to feel their worth expressed by management.

    I think that most employees who opted for the voluntary furlough thought they would be supporting the mission of the AOC. It didn’t help when the money saved was used to reward senior managers and directors.

    I hope that these hearings will be broadcast, the backpedaling and attempt to obfuscate issues will no doubt be breathtaking. Just the explanation of how over a million dollars in the CCMS project was lost and seems to be lost in the vapor will be worth the time.

    Chief and Bill and Ron, I hope your resumes are in good order, I think you’ll need them.

  14. I have worked at the AOC for 12 years. What I can say is that you know something is wrong in an organization when it can take up to two weeks to get a simple letter out the door; when one or two voices can change a program, a meeting, a report at the last minute regardless of how much time and money has already been invested in developing it. Anyone who has ever had to deal with the AOC’s executive office will know whereof I speak. The agency has no Chief Operating Officer (in spite of the fact that countless consultants—whose expertise didn’t come cheap—have recommended the need for one). The result: every buck stops, and often languishes, on WCV’s 5th floor desk amidst an absolutely mind boggling clutter. This is no way to run a major and important agency. Time for a change. From the top down.

  15. Jacques-Yves Cousteau

    You know things are bad when valued AOC employees are turning on the agency. But it IS a crisis of leadership. RAD’s or “scholars” are given huge projects that they have no authority or experience to manage, and directors and managers are too timid to speak frankly with Bill. Two of the flailing members of the E-team, Lunesta and Loon, are surrounded by emotional and professional messes that they created with their own hands.

    How bad will it get? Nobody knows. But everyone does know that the Halycon days of using limited resources for plasma televisions, redecorating, and expensive dinners for the Council are over.

  16. What is oldtimer38 talking about? Who needs a Chief Operating Officer when you have a Chief Deupty?? Adding a Chief Operating Officer simply adds to the bureaucracy.

  17. Huh? Why does an organization that has a Chief Deputy Director need a Chef Operating Officer. This simly adds to the existing bureaucracy!!

  18. statesboro blues

    hello justice for all – please elaborate on your comment that VFL savings from rank & file was spent to reward mgrs & directors – we had not heard of that yet – could you pls let us know what happened? Were AOC mgrs & directors given raises/bonuses or some such? Recently? Any enlightenment you could share would be greatly appreciated – thanks!

  19. Ohhhhhhhh Myyyyyyy

    I wish to commend both AOC watcher and the legislative committee. This site is the talk of the AOC and most of their employees who are regular readers. Although populated with a number of half-truths, many posts are spot on. Having no avenue to solve the real problems of the AOC due to an insular management style that wants to hear things only from their immediate subordinates, the AOC’s executive leadership and their directors are under heavy fire from rank and file employees who don’t dare step forward and seek to right a wrong to their own managers out of fear of reprisal.

    By way of AOC watcher, AOC employees have been provided with prima facie proof that reporting fraud, waste and abuse gets people fired and are flocking to the committee by the gaggle.

    The tone of the communications to the committee from these tax paying employees is abundantly clear. The AOC has demonstrated that self-regulation does not work and perverts constitutional checks and balances meant to protect taxpayers. The AOC executive team and directors believes that since they represent the law, they are above the law and have tried to convey that message to others. Recipients of these “We’re above the law” messages like the public works board, the office of technology services and the counties in which they serve in aren’t exactly being received very well. As a result of the numerous reports being received by the committee from current AOC employees, current AOC consultants and current AOC contractors, the committee has promised that the AOC’s visit at the end of this month will be the first of many visits.

    AOC’s employees are encouraged to step forward to the committee. Don’t use AOC resources to do so. Your reports are strictly confidental and are required by the committee to corrobrate what they’re hearing from others. Do yourself and your coworkers a favor and tell them what you know. Lacking the kind of leadership willing to admit fallability and open doors all the way up the chain of command to all, good governence and accountability is solely in your hands.

  20. justice for all

    Hi Stateboro–it is really pretty simple though it did take a bit of digging. I don’t have my notes in front of me and so I may be a bit off on actual numbers.

    This first occurred to me when I received an e-mail from an individual who went from being a Manager to being a Senior Manager during the phony “no-hire, no-raises, no-promotion period.”

    In Bill’s letter thanking the employees for taking a voluntary furlough day he indicated that about 60% (I think was the number) of the employees accepted the voluntary furlough.

    A friend with access to the financial system (I presume THAT computer system works) told me at January 1st what the payroll was for the AOC. Taking 60% (I think) of one day a month gets you reasonably close to what the savings would be.

    In June I then looked at position reports published on the AOC intranet by HR. You could flip through easily and compare it to the January report. Position titles that had changed upwards were quite evident.

    I took the ones I could identify as changing in the intervening 6 months and calculated the difference using the midpoint pay range from the pay scales, also on the AOC intranet from HR.

    When you ran the numbers, lo and behold the change in positions, i.e. Supervisors going to Manager, Managers going to Senior Manager and so on comes pretty darn close to the number I calculated as the payroll savings.

    Despite not getting the usual e-mails about the promotions this was all pretty easy to calculate, just time consuming. And to be honest exactly the treatment we have to expect from the 5th floor.

    One aside, during this recent brouhaha over the Legislative hearings there has been a resounding silence from the 5th floor. Maybe Bill has finally become too embarrassed by his treatment of the rank-and-file to say anything.

  21. Patty Jane Smith

    I think there’s silence on the 5th floor because Bill is too busy talking to news reporters trying to generate the ‘right’ spin about next week’s hearing.

  22. What OldTimer38 meant in mentioning the AOCentric’s lack of a Chief Operating Officer is that, despite their titles, the Administrative Director and the Chief Deputy Director function primarily as politicians and lobbyists, not administrators. Both are often absent from their SF offices and are generally focused on the ‘big picture’ and not the day-to-day operational details of the AOCentric.

    For example, when the Administrative Director orders a study’s focus changed at the last minute, he isn’t considering that consultant contracts previously executed will need to be amended; or even worse, that those consultants might get paid for work they won’t now be required to perform (and as anyone familiar with CCMS knows, we employ a lot of consultants). A real operational officer would take those smaller picture realities into consideration and make administrative decisions that put fiscal accountability first (as opposed to furthering a political agenda). The existing administrative culture at the AOCentric makes the situation worse since Directors and managers seldom break from the “whatever-WCV-wants, WCV gets” mindset (it’s 12+ years now, and every manager I’ve ever been assigned to sings the same song: “remember who you work for,” and they don’t mean the people of California!).

    And in case anyone doubts that the Administrative Director/Chief Deputy Director are politicians/lobbyists, consider this: WCV flies in the Chief Judge of New York to tout to the JC (among other governance issues) New York’s centralized process for the appointment of presiding judges (June 2008, Meritage Resort, Napa); fast forward one year and trailer bill language is introduced in California in an attempt to institutionalize a similar appointment process here. A coincidence?