Letter to the Editor Calls Out Kelso’s Conflicts

The op-ed piece written by J. Clark Kelso produced quite a response. Although probably not the kind of response that Kelso and the AOC wanted. What really drew people’s attention wasn’t Kelso’s defense of the CCMS program and the AOC’s handling of it, we kinda expect that from them, but instead it was Kelso’s failure to mention that he is currently on the AOC payroll at the tune of $18,000 a month.

Of course that little $18,000 omission didn’t go unnoticed by intrepid AOCW readers who immediately began posting comments on who Kelso really was and all of the financial conflicts he had that made it impossible for anyone to take his position on CCMS seriously.

In response to Kelso’s original column, judges Loren E. McMaster and Maryanne G. Gilliard sent a response to the Sacramento Bee that published the original piece by Kelson. Their response calls out not only Kelso but also the AOC continued support of computer software over people in the midst of a budget crisis. I’m including the entire response in this post which you can read after the jump.

By Loren E. McMaster and Maryanne G. Gilliard | Special to The Bee

The column by J. Clark Kelso promoting spending taxpayer money for the statewide California Case Management System (Viewpoints, Dec. 1) omitted important facts.

First, Kelso has no direct experience with the CCMS. Second, in his current role as Federal Court Receiver, he is paid over $18,000 monthly by the Administrative Office of the Courts – the agency responsible for the troubled $1.7 billion computer system Mr. Kelso so ardently defends.

In 2004, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that no business plan was ever created to assess the costs and benefits of the system. It is not surprising that a computer system awarded on a no-bid contract has skyrocketed from an estimated $260.2 million in 2004 to over $1.7 billion with no completion date in sight. That’s over $1 million per judge at a time when the public is being locked out of their courts due to budget constraints.

The no-bid contract was only one of several highly questionable decisions made by the AOC. For instance, they chose not to observe courts that have cost-effective systems that work, such as the U.S. District Court in Sacramento. They awarded the contract to a vendor who located the system’s servers out of state and who last year was forced to pay or cancel invoices totaling $18.25 million to the L.A. Unified School District because of a failed computer system.

Sacramento Bee reporter Robert Lewis accurately described CCMS’ products as follows: “One was a dud, one is off to a rocky start, and one might never be finished.”

Sacramento’s Court spends approximately $1 million yearly to staff the case management system. Because of shrinking budgets, we no longer have the staff needed for the labor-intensive data entry. Long lines form daily to file documents due to the system’s poor design. As of October, a backlog of approximately 18,000 documents has resulted. Last July, the AOC and its pricey consultants were shocked when their planned demonstration went awry because the system took too long to load and operate.

The accepted definition of a failed project is one that is over budget, overtime, and/or does not meet the user’s needs. The California Case Management System has experienced all three. A new computer system that works and does not overburden the taxpayer would be welcome. CCMS is not that system.

The AOC should allocate scarce resources to keep courthouses open and not continue this past year’s priority spending on a failed computer system.

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6 responses to “Letter to the Editor Calls Out Kelso’s Conflicts

  1. The AOC is infamous for “no-bid contract” deals, even more so than those situations that have already come to light. Why put things out for bid when they can pay more for less substandard work (see a pattern here folks?) and, perhaps, even line the pockets of some AOC insiders?

    When it’s not their money, why should they care? Oh yea, that’s right, they are public servants. So, when will they start acting like it? Sadly, I believe only when their feet are held to the fire. I probably don’t need to tell you that a firm grip is going to be needed to do that job because, sadly, they are slippery as a slimy fish! (Sorry, but it’s true!)

  2. justinianscode

    Judges Gilliard and McMaster write: “First, Kelso has no direct experience with the CCMS. ”

    We could add that the Administrative Director has no experience running a courthouse. If he had come up through the ranks, he would see that his leadership is at odds with what we need on the ground in order to serve the public effectively.

    No gold plated computer systems, please. Spend the money on keeping the courthouses open.

  3. I hate the AOC

    Mermaid you are right, “The AOC is infamous for “no-bid contract” deals, even more so than those situations that have already come to light.”

    They even flat out (condescendingly) told the legislative Accountability Committee at the hearing that no one would bid for these contracts (and said it in a way like ‘you try getting people to bid’) because it’s too much liability. So they just give it to whoever they want, licensed, qualified, credible or not. Apparently whoever they contracted with took on the liability.

  4. It’s too bad the judges didn’t include that Kelso was also an AOC sholar in residence or his participation in many AOC/court meetings. How do you get that job?

  5. Thanks Judges Gilliard and McMaster for setting forth the truth about CCMS. I admire Your courage for speaking out. Hopefully other Judges and legislators will join You so we can end court closures furloughs and layoffs !

  6. Pingback: Court Closure Day: On the 16th Day of December the AOC Gave to Me « AOC Watcher