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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

No Travel Scandal; Just a Desire to Comply

August 17, 2003

Re "Paying the Tab for Travel, Superior Court and OCTA Set Controversial Courses," Aug. 10:

Let's set the record straight. The Orange County Superior Court has nothing to hide and takes exception to last Sunday's editorial suggesting a "mini-travelgate scandal." The court has never refused to provide the records. In early August, the court sent letters acknowledging it would accommodate the requests for copies of travel records, although it has been held that the court does not fall under the mandates of the California Public Records Act.

In response to the state's deteriorating economic situation, the court has implemented cost-saving measures that include a hiring freeze in effect since July 2002, voluntary furloughs, elimination of temporary workers and cuts in overtime. In these lean times, the court is doing everything possible to maintain an efficient organization that provides outstanding service to the public. Our court has always been prudent in its budgetary expenditures. Last year, travel and training expenses accounted for less than 0.5% of the court budget.

The scope of the request for copies of every travel record for the court's 1,500 staff and 143 judicial officers from 1995 to 2003 is exceedingly extensive. Court time and costs associated with retrieving thousands of documents, redacting personal information from them and providing copies are significant. The court strongly believes that the taxpayers should not foot the bill to meet the demands of the request. Accordingly, provided that the costs of producing the documents are paid by the requestor, the court will honor the request.

Frederick P. Horn

Presiding judge, Orange County Superior Court

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