On May 23, dozens of SEIU 721 members joined court workers from across the state in Sacramento to urge California lawmakers to increase trial court funding. And we did it!
Court closures threaten public safety, families, businesses and other crucial public services. SEIU members are working together with other court employees to keep courthouses open during the economic crisis.
LA Superior Court has told SEIU 721 it plans to rehire 71 court staff laid off in March due to budget cuts.
Ventura County Superior Court employees haven't been getting the full story.
$175 to empty an ashtray. $2,166 to fix five smoke detectors. $8,000 to scrape gum off four feet of sidewalk. Those are some of the maintenance charges from companies on contract with California's court system -- and all were approved by the Administrative Office of the Courts, which oversees court budgets.
Legislators exposed the inflated costs at a hearing about government accountability in Sacramento on August 11.
LA court reporter Rose Nava was there, and she said the committee took its watchdog role seriously.
"The maintenance companies have taken advantage of the rubber-stamping of the AOC," she said. "Nobody has been watching them."
"Hopefully now that they are being watched, we will either switch to new maintenance companies or they will stop super-inflating their costs."
LA Superior Court is back to full time status as the court announced an end to furloughs starting in August. July 21 is the last furlough day.
The monthly furloughs caused delays in document processing for child support and divorces and created long lines for the public.
"I'm extremely happy the furloughs are over and we're back assisting the public full-time. But we still have to restore the courts to full capacity," said Charlotte Ramos, CSA III at Stanley Mosk in downtown LA.
California court administrators have fired the whistleblower who last year exposed their poor oversight of multimillion dollar contracts with private vendors.
Michael Paul, a senior technical analyst in the Administrative Office of the Courts' information services department, said he was told Friday, July 9, that he was being fired for reporting a possible bidding irregularity in a courthouse construction project to the wrong colleague.
"Whistleblower protections allow employees to come forward to report mismanagement of funds, misuse of authority, and most of all lack of accountability," said Linda Mascorro, an LA Superior Court employee and member of the SEIU 721 executive board. "The AOC has gotten away with not being accountable or transparent. They need to be reminded that they do not have an open checkbook."
California court employees have also raised serious questions about misspending by the AOC, and they support AB 1749, which extends whistleblower protections to court employees. Click here to read more.