LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Two Kentucky Supreme Court justices bought furniture and a vehicle in private, unadvertised sales. The court’s chief justice failed to document credit card spending. Another judge on the high court couldn’t account for personal mileage over a four-month period.
Those are among the findings in a state audit of the office overseeing Kentucky’s court system and released on Thursday.
The report by state Auditor of Public Accounts Mike Harmon found “disorganized and unchecked leadership” in the Administrative Office of the Courts and recommends that lawmakers pass legislation requiring an annual audit.
“Essentially, 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 in a news release. “This resulted in a weak internal control structure and overall lack of accountability at AOC.”
The audit was sought by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton and the office’s director, Laurie Dudgeon, following concerns over the sales of surplus property.
The report found that the office held employee-only sales and allowed internal transactions, failing to heed its own legal advice on how to conduct those sales.
And a former “executive officer” bought multiple items at sales he conducted, including two cars that were advertised with 47,000 and 79,000 more miles than what they actually had.
The audit also disclosed that, at the request of Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr.’s wife, the office director told a staff member to buy personalized mint julep cups for board members of the State Justice Institute board.
Harmon said in a press conference Thursday morning he is forwarding the audit's findings to the attorney general's office, IRS and Kentucky Department of Revenue.
“When the AOC requested this audit in May 2017, it was an unprecedented step that reversed more than 40 years of tradition in how the court system has handled external review,” Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. said in a prepared statement. “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. There is value in obtaining regular audits of the AOC and making those results public, and the Supreme Court will determine the scope and frequency of audits going forward.”
This story will be updated.
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