Shocking lack of compliance: Court's money handling 'outside the law'

February 6, 2023
World Net Daily

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

An audit of the Administrative Office of Courts for the state of Alabama has found a shocking lack of compliance with state law regarding the handling of money.

For example, the audit by the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts found money "not appropriated by the legislature" was spent on judicial education.

And fees were charged for written and oral foreign language court interpreters "without statutory authority."

And $8,600 in sick leave was paid to a worker who quit.

And various accounts and funds were "not disclosed" to the examiners.

And the division paid for "non-educational items" that generally would "be unallowable."

And 65 professional services contracts totaling $4.2 million were not submitted to the Contract Review Permanent Legislative Oversight Committee.

And per diem payments were paid to 10 workers "when their actual and necessary expenses (hotel and meals) were provided."

According to a report from Courthouse News, it was an "unusually long list of irregularities" uncovered in the audit period from 2017 through 2022.

"According to the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, inconsistencies with state law included a nonprofit fund used in part to purchase alcohol, entertainment, swag, and commemorative materials for judicial conferences, an undisclosed amount of credit card purchases without accompanying documentation, a lack of financial controls over several salary transactions and more than 60 contracts worth more than $4 million that were not scrutinized by a legislative contract review committee," the report said.

The report explained the state's system: "Alabama has a unified state judicial system where the Administrative Office of the Courts, or AOC, is responsible for the financial oversight and administration of 41 judicial circuits covering all 67 counties, as well as hundreds of municipal courts."

Key to the concerns were expenditures from the judicial college fund, which is to provide training and education programs.

"Yet the audit determined money in the fund, whether it was public or private, was also used to purchase 'alcoholic beverages, excursions and other entertainment such as DJs, social events, party supplies and rentals, gift cards, door prizes, shirts, tumblers, totes, flowers, trophies, and plaques,' among other things," the report said.

The audit report noted the court system should "ensure all monies collected are paid into the state treasury or deposited in an approved state depository to the credit of the general fund of the state of Alabama or to the credit of a special fund if the latter is allowed by law."

And it should charge only fees "that have been statutorily authorized."

State Sen. Greg Albritton, in the Courthouse News report, promised lawmakers would be reviewing the situation "and finding ways that we can exercise our appropriate authority where needed."

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