Order by the Court

Los Angeles Superior Court officials dropped plans to force workers to take days off to save money after union leaders made a case that money might not be so tight. Their key evidence: photos of warehouses full of unused top-of-the-line computers ordered for judges, managers and others who like top-of-the-line equipment.

The first day off was to be April 17, with another unpaid day off set for next Wednesday and six more days to follow in May and June. But Damian Tryon of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 36, one of two unions representing court workers, said a handful of state legislators balked at furloughs after being presented with evidence that the court ordered more than 1,100 Dell computers while hundreds of computers from the last round of ordering sat in storage.

“There is approximately $1.8 million in computer supplies just sitting around,” Tryon told court workers at a strategy session last week. “But they ordered more than $1.2 million in new computers. They said they didn’t have the money, but they seem to have enough to buy useless equipment.”

State Senator Joseph Dunn, the trial lawyer and Garden Grove Democrat whose 11th-hour talks earlier this month with the Superior Court and the state Judicial Council warded off the furloughs, said that wasn’t quite the case. He said he learned of the computer purchases only after brokering the agreement under which the council is giving the court more money to operate.

But Dunn said he was concerned about the union’s allegations, which were accompanied by photos of at least 140 boxed computers that union leaders say were quickly ordered before the depth of the court’s budget crisis became widely known. The problem is not simply the backlog but the fact that another nearly $1 million of Dells were ordered to replace those that have not even been unwrapped yet, Tryon said.

Tryon and other union leaders supplied Dunn with a copy of an April 7 letter in which the court notes that it canceled $916,490 of a larger computer order. Union leaders claim the court accepted partial delivery, but had to pay a hefty restocking fee on the equipment that was canceled.

“If it is as has been represented, then it’s very disconcerting,” Dunn said. “We are starting to make inquiries.”

Court spokesman Allan Parachini said there was no truth to the assertions that equipment was ordered merely to spend down the full tech budget. Computers are on a three-year replacement cycle, he said, and are not stockpiled.

Dunn said there may be no wrongdoing at all — simply mistrust and miscommunication at a time of tight budgets. He said some of that mistrust could be addressed in a bill by one of his Senate colleagues — Martha Escutia of Whittier — that would for the first time open up to the public the budgeting process of each of the states’ 58 superior courts.

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