Thursday, February 17, 2011
CCMS Oversight Chair Responds to Czuleger Criticisms
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
First District Court of Appeal Justice Terence L. Bruiniers, chair of the Judicial Council’s California Case Management System Executive Committee, yesterday acknowledged that he made the decision to submit the controversial computer program to final product compliance testing by an outside consultant without vetting the idea with the governance board.
“I had to make the call on behalf of the governance committee” since there “simply was no time to do a consultation with the entire committee” before a legislative hearing yesterday regarding the project, he explained.
“It was a decision that had to be made, and one that I have to accept responsibility for,” Bruiniers said, although he insisted it was “certainly thought through” and he had spoken to the chairs of the advisory committees on the issue.
Bruiniers announced the decision in a release on Monday, which was a reversal in course from the Administrative Office of the Courts’ initial objection to implementing such independent testing, as recommended by a Bureau of State Audits report.
“The main concern with doing [the testing] before was the fact that it is in fact redundant testing, and there’s a price tag attached to that, of about $500,000,” the justice said. But “in hindsight it was a mistake not to accept [the recommendation] in the first instance,” since “the only way that we are going to be able to establish credibly to the [judicial] branch and the legislature that this is a functional product...is to have the independent validation testing done,” he said.
“Credibility is the critical issue at the moment, probably even more than cost” he said, and so and “whatever our investment in [the testing] is, it’s necessary” for successful implementation of CCMS.
Former Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger, however, expressed concerns with the AOC’s response to the audit report and its stated plans to deploy CCMS.
In a letter addressed to Bruiniers, dated Monday, a copy of which was acquired by the MetNews, Czuleger said the “BSA audit is damning in every way, and I do not see the AOC truly acknowledging that fact.” He insisted that ignoring the audit’s recommendations “would be the height of arrogance and would subject the project to the continuation of the errors of the past.”
Czuleger proceeded to detail his complaints regarding the AOC’s oversight of the project, claiming that when he was on the CCMS Oversight Committee in 2006, he had pressed the agency to formulate a budget plan for the project and identify a future funding source, but “no legitimate effort was ever made” to address these issues.
He also accused the agency of “dual bookkeeping,” by “giving the Legislature one figure while internally booking another,” referencing a finding in the audit report faulting the AOC for having failed to provide data to lawmakers about the increasing total project cost and present the costs in an aggregate manner, which, as a result, “may not have informed decision makers about the true cost of the project.” The report also contains a chart which lists the amounts reported to the Legislature and cost estimates in AOC records, and the numbers in those columns are not identical.
Czuleger added that he had asked to delay entering a contract with the development vendor in 2007 until a business plan could be developed but “[t]he response was a resounding no!” He said the AOC’s response at the time was to “push the wonderful virtues of CCMS,” and a “nearly identical” response is now being given to the audit report as well.
He further complained Bruiniers’ messages to the judiciary over the past week—which have repeatedly emphasized that the audit contained “no criticisms of CCMS on a conceptual level” and that most of its recommendations were being implemented—“give every indication that no lesson has been learned and that things are viewed as business as usual.”
The judge contended the AOC has created a “crisis in confidence” through its past “pattern of incompetence” and current actions “circling the wagons and attacking a dissent.”
Bruiniers told the MetNews yesterday he had received Czuleger’s letter and that he has “ had some of these discussions over the years” with the judge, but “definitely will be writing back.”
He said his “first priority” is building confidence in CCMS and its governance committees, which is why he has been “trying to respond to every communication, pro or con, on the issue.”
The justice insisted that “no one can complain” he has ignored dissent to the CCMS project, and that he has “done exactly the opposite.”
Bruiniers also said Czuleger’s claim the agency was keeping double books was “completely untrue,” and that he has asked to have all the legislative reports compiled for his examination. He further noted the audit “doesn’t contend there was any information that was misrepresented or any that was required to be provided that was not provided.”
He acknowledged the AOC has been citing the project’s estimated cost as $1.3 billion while the audit found the actual cost will exceed $1.9, but explained the difference is due to the audit’s inclusion of ongoing support and maintenance costs which are “not unique to CCMS,” and so are not included in the AOC’s figure.
Bruiniers said he hoped the results of the product compliance testing “will provide some additional level of confidence in what we’re doing,” and asked for those who are critical of CCMS to “give us a chance and judge us by that we do or fail to do.”
Czuleger later told the MetNews his letter was intended to provide a “historical perspective” of the CCMS problem and illustrate for Bruiniers that the AOC “did know then what they do know now, and they didn’t do anything differently.”
Although changes to the project’s governance structure were made shortly before the audit was released, to form the committee headed by Bruiniers and three advisory boards, Czuleger dismissed this measure as ineffective.
“Expansion of a flow chart does not equate to good management, and all they’ve done is expand the flow chart,” he said, contending that all the members of the committee were selected by William C. Vickrey, administrative director of the courts, who “was in overall charge of this program” from the very beginning.
Efforts to reach Vickrey for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company