oversight

District of Columbia Courts: Chronology of Events Associated with DC Courts Financial-Related Issues for Fiscal Year 1998

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-06-07.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

      United States

GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      Accounting and Information
      Management Division

      B-281408


      June 7,1999

      The Honorable Ernest J. Istook
      Chairman
      The Honorable James P. Moran
      Ranking Minority Member
      Subcommittee on the District of Columbia
      Committee on Appropriations
      House of Representatives

      Subject: District of Columbia Courts: Chronoloex of Events Associated with DC Courts
               F’inancial-Related Issues for F’iscal Year 1998

      When we testified before your Subcommittee on May 18,1999, you requested that we provide
      a timehne of events and communications related to the District of Columbia Courts’ (DC
      Courts) fiscal year 1998 financial issues, as a supplement to the information provided in our
      testimony.1

      To respond to your request, the enclosure provides a chronology of events containing data on
      points made in our testimony. The events included date from June 15,1997, when the District
      of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority transmitted the
      DC Courts budget submission to the Congress, through October 21,1998, when DC Courts
      received its fiscaI year 1999 annual appropriation from the Congress.

      We shared a draft of this chronology with DC Courts officials and incorporated their
      comments as appropriate.

      We are sending copies of this letter to Representative Thomas Davis, Chairman, and
      Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on the
      District of Columbia, House Committee on Government Reform; Senator Kay Bailey
      Hutchinson, Chairwoman, Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, Senate Committee on
      4propriations; Senator Richard Durbin, Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on the
      District of Columbia, Senate Committee on Appropriations, and Subcommittee on Oversight
      of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia, Senate Committee
      on Governmental Affairs, and Senator George Voinovich, Chairman, Subcommittee on
      Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia, Senate
      Committee on Governmental Affairs. We are also sending copies to

      ‘District of Columbia Courts: Financial Related Issues for F’iscaI Year 1998 (GAO/T-
      AIMD/OGC-99-176, May 18,1999).



                                       GAO/AIMD-99-204R DC Courts F’Y 1998 Chronology of Events
B-281408



the Honorable Annice Wagner, Chairwoman, Joint Committee on Judicial Administration, DC
Courts; the Honorable Jacob J. Lew, Director, Office of Management and Budget; and Grace
Mastelli, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice. Copies will be made
available to others upon request.

If you have any questions, please contact me or Steven Haughton at (202) 5124476. Key
contributors to this assignment were Marcia Washington, Lou Fernheimer, and Richard
Cambosos.




Gloria L. Jarmon
Director, Health, Education, & Human Services
Accounting and Financial Management Issues

Enclosure




 Page 2                        GAO/AIMD-99-204R DC Courts FY 1998 Chronology of Events
Enclosure

                 Chronoloev of Events Associated     With DC Courts
                   Financial-Related   Issues for Fiscal Year 1998


6-15-97       The District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management
              Assistance Authority (Authority) transmitted to the Congress the District’s
              fiscal year 1998 budget submission, which included the Authority’s
              recommendation that DC Courts be funded at $117.8 million. It also
              contained DC Courts’budget request of $123.5 million, including a
              proposed 3 percent pay raise for nonjudicial employees.

8-5-97        President Clinton signed the National Capital Revitalization and Self-
              Government Improvement Act of 1997 (Revitalization Act). Under the
              Revitalization Act, DC Courts was to receive direct federal funding from
              the Congress. The act directed changes in DC Courts employee benefits
              and transferred responsibility for the adult probation function from DC
              Courts to the DC Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (COSA)
              Trustee.

8-1497        The President submitted to the Congress proposed amendments to the
              fiscal year 1998 appropriations requests to provide resources for the
              implementation of the Revitalization Act. The proposed amendments
              contained $123 million for DC Courts operations, including up to $2
              million for the Truth-in-Sentencing Commission.

9497          The Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, testified on the
              Revitalization Act before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the
              District of Cohunbia. At this hearing, he stated that DC Courts estimated
              the cost of the adult probation function at $7 million.

9-9-97        The Senate Appropriations Committee reported S.1156 recommending
              funding of $116 million for operation of DC Courts for fiscal year 1998,
              including up to $750,000for the Truth-in-Sentencing Commission.

(In October 1997, a Department of Justice Revitabzation Task Force estimated the cost of
the adult probation function at about $20 million. According to a member of the Task
Force, the estimate was submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and
relevant Congressional Subcommittees.)

10-6-97       The House Appropriations Committee reported H.R. 2607 recommending
              funding of $121 million for court operations and an additional $2 million
              for the Truth-in-Sentencing Commission.

10-g-97       The House amended and passed H.R. 2607 authorizing funding of $121
              million for DC Courts and up to $2 million for the Truth-in-Sentencing
              Commission.

H-28-97       DC Courts Executive Officer was informed by a Department of Justice
              official that DC Courts’fiscal year 1998 appropriation would be $108
              million, including judges’pension costs.



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       .



Enclosure


(DC Courts officials told us that they wrote to and met with OMB and Department of
Justice officials regarding the cost of the adult probation function during the months of
October and November 1997).

1 l-9-97       The Senate amended and passed H.R. 2607 authorizing funding of $108
               million for DC Courts, including pension costs and up to $750,000for the
               Truth-in-Sentencing Commission.

11-12-97       The House agreed to the Senate amendment to H.R. 2607 authorizing
               funding of $108 million for DC Courts, including pension costs and up to
               $750,000for the Truth-in-Sentencing Commission. The House also made
               an additional amendment to H.R. 2607 and disagreed with a Senate
               amendment to H.R. 2607.

11-U-98        The Senate agreed to the House amendment to H.R. 2607 and receded
               from the Senate amendment disagreed with by the House.

U-1497         DC Courts Executive Officer issued a memo to court employees stating
               that at a November 13,1997, meeting, the Joint Committee on Judicial
               Administration approved comparability of DC Courts compensation
               schedule with the federal court’s schedule, to be achieved over 2 fiscal
               years, provided adequate funding was appropriated. DC Courts estimated
               the cost of the pay raise at $2.9 million. The first sakry adjustment was to
               be effective December 7,1997, at 7 percent per annum, for all nonjudicial
               employees.

 11-19-97      The President signed the District’s F’iscal Year 1998 Appropriation Act
               (Public Law 105100), which provided $108 million for DC Courts’fkcal
               year 1998 funding, including pension costs and up to $750,000for the
               Truth-m-Sentencing Commission.

 12-7-97        DC Courts’ 7 percent pay raise became effective. DC Courts Fiscal Officer
                later calculated the actual cost of this pay raise at almost $2.8 million for
                fiscal year 1998.

 12-l 1-97      DC Courts submitted an analysis to OMB projecting a $9.5 million shortfall
                for fiscal year 1998.

 12-17-97      ‘DC Courts confirmed an agreement with the COSA Trustee that 171 full-
                time equivalents would be transferred from DC Courts to the COSA
                Trustee, and estimated the cost of the adult probation function at $11.5
                million.

 12-2497        The COSA Trustee estimated the cost of the adult probation function at
                $18.3 million and informed OMIT that $1.7 million should be transferred
                from the COSA Trustee’s appropriation to DC Courts (see October 7,
                1998).

 (In December 1997, OMB proposed a settlement between DC Courts’estimate of $11.5
 million and the COSA Trustee’s estimate of $18.3 million. OMB proposed $16 million as



 Page 4                       GAO/AIMD-99-204R DC Courts FY 1998 Chronology of Events
Enclosure


the cost of the adult probation function. We have not identified any action resulting from
the proposal.)

l-29-98        OMB advised DC Courts that it could not continue to incur obligations for
               the adult probation function without reimbursement. It further stated that
               DC Courts was incurring obligations at a rate that could exceed the fiscal
               year 1998 appropriation, and risked a violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act
               if it continued to pay sabrries and expenses for the adult probation
               function.

2-13-98        In a letter to OMB, DC Courts projected a $8.3 million budget deficit and
               informed OMB that most of its operations would have to be discontinued
               by the end of the fiscal year unless substantial supplemental resources
               were received.

2-27-98        The DC Courts and the COSA Trustee executed a Memo of Understanding
               (MOU). The MOU identified the adult probation employees to be
               transferred and other terms and conditions.

3-2-98         A letter from the COSA Trustee to DC Courts noted the transfer of over
               $5.9 million to DC Courts in reimbursement for adult probation costs
               incurred by DC Courts and estimated for the remainder of the 2& quarter
               of fiscal year 1998. Between March and June of 1998,DC Courts received
               additional net reimbursements totaling $1.9 million from the COSA
               Trustee for the 3” and 4”’quarters of fiscal year 1998.

3-13-98        DC Courts requested $8.3 million in supplemental funding for fiscal year
               1998 in a letter to the Director of OMB. The letter stated that the request
               was based on the $8 million over-estimation of the annual cost of the adult
               probation function, $3 million in unanticipated costs associated with
               implementing the Revitalization Act, and $300,000for emergency costs
               caused by a court fire, less $3 million that DC Courts planned to absorb
               through cost containment measures. DC Courts also sent letters to the
               Chairman of the Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, Senate
               Committee on Appropriations, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the
               District of Columbia, House Committee on Appropriations, and the
               Ranking Minority Member of the Subcommittee on the District of
               Columbia, House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight,
               asking for assistance in securing the supplemental funding.

42-98          OMB advised DC Courts that it was operating at a rate that if continued
               through the remainder of the fiscal year, would necessitate a deficiency or
               a supplemental appropriation of about $8 million. OMB also requested
               that DC Courts submit a spending plan by 41-d 10,1998, that
               demonstrated how it would utilize the balance of its available resources at
               a rate that would ensure continuity of essential functions throughout the
               fiscal year.

41598          DC Courts submitted a spending plan to OMB and stated that drastic
               reductions would be required to operate without supplemental funding of



Page 5                      GAO/AJMD-99-204RDC Courts FY 1998 Chronology of Events
Enclosure


              over $8 million. These planned reductions consisted primarily of over $5
              million from the furlough of employees for 26 business days.

5498          Based on a request from OMB for a revised spending plan, DC Courts
              provided a plan reflecting the reduction of nonpersonnel costs, principally
              the deferral of payments to court-appointed attorneys.

5-2 l-98      A letter to DC Courts from OMB underscored its concern that DC Courts
              was operating at a‘rate that if continued through the remainder of the
              fiscal year, would necessitate a deficiency or supplemental appropriation
              of over $8 million. OMB also stated that DC Courts’ adjusted plan should
              maintain personnel spending at current levels, assure the projected level
              of personnel obligations, and reduce nonpersonnel spending.

(DC Courts officials told us that they met in May and June with OMB officials in an
attempt to secure additional funding.)

7-2498         DC Courts stopped making payments to court-appointed attorneys.

7-29-98        DC Courts sent a letter to a staff member of the Subcommittee on the
               District of Columbia, House Committee on Government Reform and
               Oversight, stating that budgets for court-appointed attorney payments had
               not been depleted and that DC Courts would continue making these
               payments to the extent feasible.

8-2-98         DC Courts’ letter to OMB outlined cost reduction measures taken,
               including the deferral of payments to court-appointed attorneys estimated
               at over $5 million through the end of the fiscal year.

8-&98          DC Courts requested Byrne Grant funding of $6.7 million for court-
               appointed attorney payments, court personnel expenses, and Year 2000
               (Y2K) remediation from the Department of Justice.

&2498          DC Courts received a Byrne Grant totaling $1.1 million from the
               Department of Justice that was to be used for court personnel expenses
               and Y2K remediation.

 N-7-98        The F’iscal Year 1999 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act
               transferred to DC Courts’fiscal year 1998 appropriations account from the
               COSA Trustee’s fiscal year 1998 account $1.7 million to be used solely to
               pay court-appointed attorneys for obligations deferred from fiscal year
               1998.




 Page 6                      GAO/AIMD-9%204RDC Courts FY 1998 Chronology of Events
Enclosure



N-21-98     The District of Columbia Appropriations Act of 1999 (Public Law 105-277)
            appropriated $121 million to DC Courts for operations for fiscal year 1999.
            Of the amount appropriated, the act provided that not more than $31.9
            million may be used for payments to court-appointed attorneys for fiscal
            year 1999. The Conference Committee report accompanying the act
            directed DC Courts to immediately pay ah obligations for court-appointed
            attorneys carried over from fmcal year 1998 ($4.1 million) using other
            funds from its fiscal year 1999 appropriation.




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Page 7                   GAO/AIMD-9%204R DC Courts F?’1998 Chronology of Events
‘,   :


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