It’s probably not in the budget, but it sure seems like the Administrative Office of the Courts could use some top-notch PR help right about now.
On Thursday night, San Diego television station KGTV slammed former Administrative Director of the Courts Bill Vickrey and current interim director Ron Overholt for allegedly spending lavishly on taxpayer-funded flights, hotels, fine dining and even alcohol.
The report, citing expense reimbursement claims from 2009 to this year, suggests Vickrey and Overholt traveled to posh resorts around the country, dined at swank eateries and swilled Grey Goose martinis -- all on the public dime. And when he wasn’t jet-setting, Overholt was billing taxpayers for stays and $51-a-night parking at a San Francisco hotel just blocks away from AOC headquarters, according to the piece.
The AOC refused to grant an on-camera interview, according to the reporter, but local assemblyman and mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher had plenty to say.
“The AOC is going to have a lot of tough questions to answer,” Fletcher said, adding that such profligate spending is one of the reasons the public “has lost faith in its government.”
The AOC, as you might expect, has a different take on the expenses. Trips to places like Vail, Colo., Washington, D.C., and Indian Wells were all business-related, according to AOC spokesman Philip Carrizosa. Although the men’s receipts note alcohol purchases, none of those costs were submitted for reimbursement, he said.
As for the pricey dinners -- $1,976 at L’Olivier in San Francisco in August 2010, for instance -- those meals were shared by groups of up to 40 attendees and were only reimbursed at the state’s travel meal rate of $18 a person, Carrizosa said.
Overholt did bill the AOC in 2010 for some overnights at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco, to be closer to a Judicial Council meeting in San Francisco. Carrizosa said Overholt lives 30 miles outside the city and the meetings started early and ended late.
Whatever the reasoning or justification of the expenses, the report is sure to attract more scrutiny that the branch doesn’t need or want right now.