As if the courts weren’t under enough scrutiny for their fiscal practices, courthouse water cooler chatter heated up this week over word that the Judicial Council spent a serious chunk of change on its annual three-day planning meeting last month.
As first reported in The Union newspaper of Grass Valley, 59 Council members, AOC staff and guest speakers gathered at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco June 24-26 to consider the effects of California’s sorry financial state on the courts’ long-term plans.
The Council dropped $42,000 on meeting room rentals, on-site meals and guest rooms for out-of-town attendees, Council staffers told Legal Pad. Among the digs was a so-called presidential suite, which comes with a separate dining and “guest room area” as well as a balcony “offering sweeping views of the city and bay” and an LCD flat panel TV, according to the Hilton’s Web site.
And that was just the first forty grand. Follow the jump:
The suite was not home base for shrimp-cocktail-slurping soirees, said Council spokeswoman Lynn Holton, but smaller, more casual meetings of conference-goers. Justice Brad Hill of the Fifth District DCA got to call it home at night.
On the second evening, the group trekked over to the California Academy of Sciences for a catered dinner and to study the building’s “green” features. The Council is very interested in including enviro-conscious features in its upcoming construction program, Holton said. Total tab for the event: $4,212.
(We asked about price tags for other Judicial Council dinners this year and were told that a March dinner at Alfred’s Steakhouse cost $2,520 and an April dinner at the Grand Café was $2,640. Both were held during two-day planning meetings.)
Putting together the conference didn’t come cheap either. The council spent $40,000 on a consulting firm — chosen from competitive bids — to plan the event and to “facilitate” it on-site.(Running total: eighty-two thousand dollars for a meeting — editor.)
Holton noted that the consulting firm contract was signed in April, before AOC leaders knew the state was going to slice another $100 million from the courts’ budget (who could’ve known in April we were in an economic crisis? — editor). And, she said, even if the Council had hosted the event at an AOC-owned or leased site, it still would have incurred costs for housing and feeding out-of-town members (just, presumably, a lot less — editor).
That’s not likely to assuage most court workers, who, if they haven’t already been laid off, will be expected to take at least one unpaid day furlough each month starting in August.
Maybe they can share the presidential suite next year ….
— Cheryl Miller
Follow me on Twitter