Auditor: Agency that oversees courts is 'disorganized and unchecked'

Harmon

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The agency that runs Kentucky's court system is "disorganized and unchecked" in many ways, a state audit reports.

State Auditor Mike Harmon said at a news conference Thursday morning that the Administrative Office of the Courts "failed to follow many of its own policies and often simply didn't have sufficient policies in place to provide transparency and oversight."

At the news conference, Harmon released what he said was the first ever comprehensive external examination of the Administrative Office of the Courts, or AOC.

A summary of concerns raised by the audit includes:

• The agency held employee-only sales and engaged in individual sales transactions from 2012 to 2017 against the advice given by its general counsel in 2010.

• A former executive officer of the agency who oversaw those insider sales bought property at the sales including two surplus vehicles.

• Two Supreme Court justices bought surplus furniture and a vehicle in private transactions with the agency.

• The vast majority of credit card expenses of Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. and the AOC director that auditors examined lacked any supporting documentation. Also, there was no pre-approval or subsequent review of credit card activity by anyone other than the cardholder, and no cardholder agreements were required for key officials issued a credit card.

• The agency failed to properly report taxable personal benefits from take-home vehicles assigned to justices and other personnel.

• The AOC director instructed staff to buy personalized mint julep cups for members of the State Justice Institute board at the request of the chief justice's wife.

"AOC failed to follow many of its own policies and often simply didn't have sufficient policies in place to provide transparency and oversight," Harmon said. "This resulted in a weak internal control structure and overall lack of accountability."

The audit makes 20 findings in all and numerous recommendations.

Minton noted in a statement released Thursday that the agency requested the audit a year ago. He said, "While we are careful to safeguard the Judicial Branch as a separate and co-equal branch of government, we also want to advance our efforts to be transparent and accountable to Kentucky taxpayers."

AOC Director Laurie Dudgeon thanked Harmon for the "thorough examination." Dudgeon said many reforms have been adopted during the year while the audit was underway, including the restructuring of the Department of Administrative Services.

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