Shoddy state court action

By From page A4 | October 02, 2013

El Dorado County has been at the top of the list for getting a new courthouse. After looking at a number of possible sites, the Administrative Office of the Courts picked the site El Dorado County has wanted all along. That site, on county property, is next to the county jail and would include a tunnel from the jail to a holding cell in the courthouse.

At an Oct. 26, 2012 meeting of the Judicial Counci,l El Dorado County’s courthouse projects received the following  designation: “proceed with site acquisition and reduce hard construction costs additionally by 10 percent.”

One of the pieces of land the county has an option on includes part of property owned by the Briggs Family Trust. Supervisor Ron Briggs, in recognition of the conflict of interest, has recused himself from all deliberations and discussions relative to this matter and also relative to interchange construction at Ray Lawyer Drive.

Now comes an anonymous, unsigned letter to the Administrative Office of the Courts from a bogus outfit called El Dorado County Taxpayers Group. This phony outfit has nothing to do with the real Taxpayers Association of El Dorado County formed in the 1960s, and whose president signs all correspondence.

The July 25 anonymous letter accuses Ron Briggs of “corruption” and without any evidence claims the last grand jury disbanded because of it. Our reading is personality conflicts were at the heart of a number of grand jurors quitting and then being disbanded for lack of a proper quorum.

Regardless, an anonymous letter writer can make up his own facts, which he does freely. An anonymous letter writer can also take a few facts and twist them, which he does freely.

The real crime is the Administrative Office of the Courts got sucked in by this screed. Curtis L. Child, chief operating officer, sent a letter dated Sept. 6 to the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors and the county counsel in which he, based on the anonymous letter, changed the designation of the El Dorado County courthouse site plan to “controversial.”

“… the administrative director of the courts typically approves site acquisition terms before the proposed acquisition is submitted to  the State Public Works Board for acquisition approval. If a site is considered a ‘controversial site,’ however, the proposed acquisition must be approved by the Judicial Council before submission to SPWB.”

“The concerns expressed in the attached letter appear to warrant treatment of the site at 300 Forni Road as a ‘controversial site.’”

In other words, the Placerville courthouse project just got the kiss of death.

“In light of the significant cuts to courthouse construction funding over the last few years that have resulted in projects being canceled, scaled back, suspended or delayed, the Judicial Council will want to know that the Placerville project is cost-effective and reflects good stewardship of limited state resources.”

This letter from courts CAO Child came on the letterhead of the Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts, and included the names of Steven Jahr, administrative director of the courts, and California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, who visited the downtown El Dorado County Courthouse and spoke to the local judges last year.

The courts would not accept an anonymous letter into evidence. Neither should the chief justice. We call on the chief justice to remove this “controversial site” label.

Mountain Democrat

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