Report 2014-107 Recommendation 11 Responses

Report 2014-107: Judicial Branch of California: Because of Questionable Fiscal and Operational Decisions, the Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts Have Not Maximized the Funds Available for the Courts (Release Date: January 2015)

Recommendation #11 To: Administrative Office of the Courts

To reduce its expenses, the AOC should cease its excessive reimbursements for meals by adopting the executive branch's meal and travel reimbursement policies.

Annual Follow-Up Agency Response From November 2016

The Judicial Council of California has no further information to share other than its previous response to the State Auditor in January 2016.

California State Auditor's Assessment of Annual Follow-Up Status: Will Not Implement


1-Year Agency Response

The status submitted on the six-month report has not changed.

  • Response Date: January 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of 1-Year Status: Will Not Implement

Although we acknowledge that the AOC is taking steps to be more cost-effective by eliminating morning and afternoon breaks, the AOC's response does not address several items of concern that we identified in our report. In particular, the AOC provides reimbursements for certain meals at higher rates than the executive branch, as noted in Table 7 on page 24 of our report. Further, the AOC is providing meals for business meetings, which is not allowed under executive branch policy as we state on page 34 of our report. Moreover, the AOC does not address whether it will modify the existing catering contracts at the San Francisco and Sacramento work locations to ensure that these contracts conform to executive branch policies and reimbursement rates. Finally, the AOC's response ignores that trial court staff traveling to AOC-sponsored meetings can already receive reimbursement for travel costs from their own trial courts.


6-Month Agency Response

The Judicial Council carefully considered this recommendation with an emphasis on how the judicial branch conducts its business and decided to retain the practice of providing business meals, with some modifications.

The council's advisory body structure--served by volunteer judicial officers, court staff, and other subject matter experts--informs Judicial Council policymaking on matters affecting the branch. To achieve efficiencies and cost savings, most advisory body meetings are conducted through conference calls. When in-person meetings do occur, members typically travel a significant distance to participate. Approximately 65% of onsite meetings/trainings are multi-day events, and meals provided onsite are consistent with executive branch rates. Participants already qualify for meal reimbursement through the travel expense claim process (again at rates consistent with those used by the executive branch), therefore, the elimination of centralized business meals at these events would not result in cost reductions. Where onsite meetings are not possible, reimbursement rates for offsite events are higher, however, the most cost effective option is selected with negotiated rates approximately $15/meal lower than market rates. Modifying reimbursement rates would not result in cost savings as hotels routinely transfer meal savings into meeting room rental rates.

The Judicial Council is, however, modifying existing policy to be more cost-effective by 1) eliminating morning and afternoon breaks for onsite as well as offsite meetings, and 2) requiring that for onsite catering, a majority of participants must have travelled 25 or more miles to the meeting location. (Policy already requires a business reason to keep the group together during the meal period.)

  • Response Date: July 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Will Not Implement

Although we acknowledge that the AOC is taking steps to be more cost-effective by eliminating morning and afternoon breaks, the AOC's response does not address several items of concern that we identified in our report. In particular, the AOC provides reimbursements for certain meals at higher rates than the executive branch, as noted in Table 7 on page 24 of our report. Further, the AOC is providing meals for business meetings, which is not allowed under executive branch policy as we state on page 34 of our report. Moreover, the AOC does not address whether it will modify the existing catering contracts at the San Francisco and Sacramento work locations to ensure that these contracts conform to executive branch policies and reimbursement rates. Finally, the ACO's response ignores that trial court staff traveling to AOC-sponsored meetings can already receive reimbursement for travel costs from their own trial courts.


60-Day Agency Response

Because travel reimbursement and reimbursement for meals held on-site at Judicial Council office locations is already consistent with executive branch reimbursement rates, staff is conducting an analysis confined to the different meal reimbursement rate for offsite events for judges and court staff attending meetings or educational/training programs and the potential impact any changes would have on hotel contracts that generally factor meeting room rental costs into meal costs. Council staff anticipates completing the analysis in the third quarter of 2015.

  • Estimated Completion Date: Third quarter of 2015
  • Response Date: March 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Pending

The AOC does not note in its response whether it will eliminate providing business meals. This benefit is not provided to the executive branch. In addition, the AOC provides reimbursements for certain meals at higher than the executive branch rate, as noted in Table 7 of our report. Finally, the AOC does not address what actions it will take to modify its existing catering contracts at the San Francisco and Sacramento work locations.


All Recommendations in 2014-107

Agency responses received are posted verbatim.


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