Best Practices Committee
August 3, 2006
Judge Spector called the meeting to order. Judge Spector noted that Judge Eric Lucas, Snohomish County Superior Court, has joined the committee. Also, Mr. Carl McCurley, AOC Research Manager, has replaced Ms. Deana Piazza who moved out of state. Those present introduced themselves.
Judge Spector and the committee sent their heartfelt condolences to Ms. Meagan Eliot. Ms. Eliot’s daughter Jasmine passed away on July 22; Judge Spector said she attended a beautiful memorial at Jasmine’s school the previous evening. There was a moment of silence for Jasmine Ball.
MEETING AGENDA AND PROCESS OVERVIEW
Mr. Hall began by providing an overview of the discussion planned for the meeting and outlined the start-to-finish steps for measurement selection, development and approval as follows:
Development of measures
Pilot PHASE II
Form/Content of Report
Approval for Recommendation to the Board for Judicial Administration
Mr. Hall briefly touched upon the items listed in Agenda Item 5 referring the committee to the materials behind Tab 4. These items will be discussed in more detail at the next meeting.
Judge Spector asked if there were any changes to the May 11 minutes; there were none.
The committee went through the Pilot Test Evaluation and Approval Process, Measure Evaluation Criteria; Protocol for Evaluating Measures - Pilot Phase 1; Protocol for Evaluating Measures - Pilot Phase 2; and Base Measure Test and Approval Progress.
Discussion ensued regarding how and when measures will be presented to the BJA following approval by the Best Practice Committee. Mr. Hall said he thought it would be best to take them a full, completed project; but they should be educated on it before the document is presented to them. Several members indicated it would be better to take them to BJA as they are approved to ensure that the Committee is on the right track. Others felt it might be best to take several at a time. Judge Spector indicated she is on the agenda for the September BJA meeting to share information and answer questions and will discuss with BJA their preferred approach.
Concern was expressed about the length of this process, especially with staff being heavily involved in legislative issues beginning at the end of the year. Judge Spector said she will have subcommittees continue to meet early in 2007 when Mr. Hall and Ms. Eliot are occupied with the legislative session; it is expected the committee will begin meeting together again in April/May 2007. Judge Spector is attending the Performance Management for the Judiciary conference in Virginia and will bring back whatever information she can – what’s been tried in other jurisdictions, what works and what doesn’t work.
A question was asked regarding what prompts the start of an audit in an individual court. Mr. Hall responded that the policy adopted by the BJA provides for an audit will be conducted when requested by a court or when the BJA directs that a performance audit be done in a specific court.
AOC expects to do all 12 base measures in a court (if only asked to do two or three that is certainly an option). There would not be a cost to the court. Ideally the manual would be given to a court and they could do their own review using that manual. It is anticipated that an audit may be requested in an area not part of the established measures.
The committee agreed it is important to be able to show that we are developing measures that align with established standards such as the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS) to give the project credibility. There will inevitably be questions about how something is done, and then we can refer to the accepted GAGAS standards.
Judge Spector asked if there was a consensus by the committee.
Judge Lucas asked how staff will blend the (GAGAS) manual into the system being developed. Staff responded that the GAGAS is really a measure of the measurement themselves. That is in adopting the measure protocols, the Committee, through the evaluation process, will determine whether or not the measures are GAGAS compliant. Staff will develop a Washington State Performance Audit Manual describing each of the 12 measures and how they are to be conducted. Once this is finalized, it can be assumed to be GAGAS compliant and court audits can proceed with confidence.
Mr. Hall stated that this is the first measure ready to be considered for recommendation to the BJA for approval. Mr. Hall indicated his belief that this measure was of value in answering whether or not a court responds to and corrects audit findings from the state auditor.
A concern was noted arising from the reports from the pilot sites regarding the state’s expertise when auditing courts – the state auditor’s office contracts with local CPA’s, who may not be especially knowledgeable about courts and how they operate. Can we always assume the state auditor’s are correct? Will the level of expertise be what is necessary for the courts?
Some counties and cities conduct internal financial audits independent of the state auditor. That is a protective factor. AOC will also look at state auditor reports, recommendations and findings; possibly internal audits too.
If a court PASSES and a recommendation is still offered – does that raise the level of expectation?
A lot could depend on the court and the AOC auditor performing the audit. It could be that a court PASSES in an area, but a ‘protective’ suggestion can be given. Protective factors may institute a best practice.
Ms. Miner suggested that probably a large majority of the courts audited will have requested it, so they will be looking for more information than just a pass/fail result.
Will the pass/fail result be for all the measures or just the financial measures? Staff indicated that will need to be discussed as we go through each measure.
After further discussion about whether the results should be Pass/Fail or Tiered; there was a general consensus that for now, it would be kept at a pass/fail standard. We will monitor how the courts respond to this in the preliminary stages.
To be addressed in the future: If a court meets a standard, should there be a recommendation? Could it not always be a recommendation for a court to surround itself with protective factors?
In an exit interview with AOC staff, it might be useful to offer verbal recommendations.
Mr. Hall said that as AOC gains experience in this area, the list of risks and protective factors will grow and be codified in our audit manual.
Mr. Hall proceeded to walk through the written staff assessment of the measure prepared by Ms. Eliot. A question was raised regarding the meaning of the section titled “Identification of ‘condition’.” Mr. Hall was not able to respond and will provide an answer at the next meeting.
After completing the walk through of the written staff assessment Mr. Hall indicated that the committee will proceed to confirm or change the staff assessments in the measure evaluation chart at the next meeting.
This item was briefly discussed under agenda item 2.
Judge Spector asked the committee members to read through the reports and methodology; and at the September meeting be prepared as a group to go through Measure Evaluation: Court Response to Financial Audits which is the chart towards the end of Tab 3.
Judge Spector will also offer a summary of what she learns at the upcoming Performance Management for the Judiciary conference in Virginia.
Staff will check availability dates for a September meeting and be in touch with the committee via email.