Documents Reveal Overcharging For State Court Projects

$114 To Change Light Bulbs, $45K For A Desk Among Projects Cited

The 10News I-Team learned several contracting companies are making millions of dollars by overcharging California taxpayers on some seemingly simple projects.

According to documents obtained by the I-Team, the state spent $45,000 renovating Department 10 in San Diego County's Vista courthouse. The work included a new desk.

"How would you grade this work? Is it high end?" asked I-Team reporter Mitch Blacher.

"No, it's not high end," said Curtis McBride, president of Vista-based Jon Wayne Construction. "If you're looking at a one to 10 [scale], it’s probably a 7; a 6 to 7."

McBride estimated the renovations should have cost between $20,000 and $30,000. The state paid $45,000.

"It’s not something to be sneezed at," said Vista criminal judge Tony Maino. "If they paid roughly $15,000 more than it cost, that's a lot of money."

According to documents, California courts have paid $114 to change light bulbs and spent $8,000 to sandblast the outside of a Sacramento courthouse to remove gum stuck on the building.

According to the state contract, the state's two contractors get to add between 20 to 30 percent, depending on the size of the job, to the total cost. It is called a management fee, and it’s added to whatever the job costs.

Michael Paul, a former senior technical analyst for the Judicial Council of California, is suing the state courts for allegedly giving away millions by allowing themselves to be overcharged by their contractor.

Paul's lawsuit claims the courts' chosen contractors overcharged to build courthouses and complete electrical work -- all while "receiving millions of dollars illegally for services that required a contractor's license."

The state issued a statement to 10News about the $45,000 renovations in Vista's Department 10, saying, in part: "The administrative office of the courts requested a review of this job on July 30 because we are questioning some of the charges for this project. That review is still underway."

On Wednesday, the State Assembly Accountability Committee is going to question court administrators over the way they pay to maintain and repair courthouses.

The committee will also ask about the state's major IT project -- a court computer system that is currently $1 billion over budget.