10News I-Team reveals State court leaders’ lavish spending

State court official Ronald Overholt, former official William Vickery spent thousands on trips, meals

Published in 10News.com

POSTED: 5:38 pm PST November 17, 2011
UPDATED: 4:46 pm PST November 18, 2011

SAN DIEGO — The officials running California’s courts have been spending tax dollars on steaks, martinis and hotel stays, the 10News I-Team learned.

» PDF: Court Officials’ Travel Expenses

Since 2009, two men — Ronald Overholt and William Vickery — have spent thousands of dollars traveling to Vail, Colo.; Charlotte; Boston; Santa Fe, N.M.; Denver; and Indian Wells, Calif. They also took three trips to Washington, D.C.

According to information obtained by the I-Team, every time and on every trip, the men charged state taxpayers for rooms, flights, drinks and dinners.

Overholt is currently in charge of the state’s courts, while Vickery was his predecessor.

“Spending hundreds of dollars on steak and lobster and alcoholic beverages is just wrong and it’s out of touch and it’s got to stop,” Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher said.

Fletcher was especially concerned about the trips to the nation’s capital, where court leaders used taxpayer dollars on Grey Goose martinis and steaks.

At the Occidental restaurant in Washington, D.C., they spent $234 on wine and hard liquor and $816 on food.

For leaders at the Administrative Office of the Courts, the trips were for conferences and to meet with federal court leaders.

“The AOC is going to have a lot of tough questions to answer,” Fletcher said.

When Overholt was home in San Francisco, where the AOC headquarters is based, he spent $720 for two dinners at a French restaurant and took colleagues out for a $1,215 dinner at a steakhouse on San Francisco Bay.

Overholt also charged taxpayers for a hotel stay in San Francisco, even though he lives there.

Vista Judge Tony Maino has been critical of court leadership since the I-Team’s series of investigations revealed some of the outrageous prices for seemingly simple court maintenance, including $460 to hang a single clock in a courtroom.

“Certainly in the economic situation we’re all in, it doesn’t look good,” Maino said.

State court leaders would not answer questions for this story.

A representative wrote: “Sorry, but we have no one available for an on-camera interview regarding Administrative Office of the Courts spending.”

The I-Team also found Overholt drove to many of those expensive dinners — many at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco — despite it being just eight blocks, and a 15 minute walk, from his office.

Instead of walking, Overholt drove and charged taxpayers more than $50 every time he parked.

“This is why the public is losing and has lost faith in government, particularly state government,” Fletcher said.

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