Californians are handing a huge amount of money to a company using some of it to lobby state lawmakers.
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Deloitte is an international professional services firm that isn't afraid to spend to lobby for its interests. Those interests include a $1.9 billion computer project for California's courts.
But that payday could be jeopardized if state leaders continue their push to defund the Administrative Office of the Courts and run all court spending through the Legislature.
In the past two years, the 10News I-Team uncovered court spending that included $100 to change a light bulb and $460 to fix a squeaky door inside courthouses.
"It is a failed institution," local Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher said from the Assembly floor, speaking of the AOC last month.
Fletcher joined more than three dozen of his colleagues in voting to take away the court's checkbook.
"Members, we cannot sit idly by and watch an organization continue to waste taxpayer funds," he said.
The expense that seems to have pushed the Assembly to take away the AOC's spending power isn't the light bulbs or even the $100 spent to hang a single clock. It is the $1.9 billion the courts are spending on a computer system built by Deloitte.
The company's computer system is considered out-of-date, out of touch and already out of warranty.
"Deloitte has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo," Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne Gilliard said.
Gilliard is one of hundreds of state judges who think the computer project and its nearly $2 billion price tag should be scrapped. The legislation to take away the AOC's checkbook could do it.
Lobbying records show Deloitte spent $124,000, in part, to wine and dine at least nine state lawmakers while trying to kill that bill, AB 1208.
"I find it to be very troubling," Gilliard said.
Deloitte did not respond to requests for comment about lobbying activities.
"The majority of judges throughout the state believe it is time to change the bureaucracy," Vista Judge Dan Goldstein said.
Both Gilliard and Goldstein represent more than 400 judges statewide who said they were sick of seeing courthouses closed because of budget cuts and were tired of the court's spending habits.
"It's really time for our court leaders to say, 'We made a mistake,'" Gilliard said.
The courts chief administrator, Ron Overholt, did not admit mistakes but did resign after the I-Team featured his spending habits, including thousands of tax dollars spent on alcohol and meals.
Overholt also spent time dining with Deloitte executives. According to his expense report, Overholt dined with Deloitte Vice President Jim Moffatt shortly after the state's auditor called the Deloitte computer project "over budget" and "mismanaged." The state said there is no receipt available to show who paid for that dinner.
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said critics like the Assembly misrepresent how bad things are. She said the courts must keep control of its finances to remain independent.
"Why take away the discretion to resolve our issues and make the Legislature the only way that can be resolved," Cantil-Sakauye said.
The bill that will have all court spending decisions run through the Legislature will now go to the state Senate for a vote.
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