Kevin de Leon

Former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, right, created a crew of former reporters to delve into thorny issues, and it generated some noteworthy reports, but Steinberg’s successor, Kevin de León, has disbanded it. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./pkitagaki@sacbee.com)

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
01/19/2015 7:39 PM

Legislative leaders occasionally proclaim that they want to do more “oversight” – looking into how well state government agencies are serving the public interest.

At best, however, it has been spotty.

In past years, we saw serious investigations into allegations of wrongdoing in the secretary of state’s office and the Department of Insurance, and of political interference in a massive computer software contract.

But that was then. What passes for oversight these days are often brief, highly orchestrated hearings that curry favor with some interest group.

The state auditor’s office drills deeply into some big issues – recently, for example, shortcomings in the state’s court system – but acts only when the Legislature assigns it. Its reports are often ignored.

Former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg created a crew of former reporters to delve into thorny issues, and it generated some noteworthy reports, but Steinberg’s successor, Kevin de León, has disbanded it.

Notwithstanding that lackadaisical attitude, there is no shortage of dirty laundry that needs airing, to wit:

▪ The auditor’s findings about the courts. Its criticism mirrors complaints by the Alliance of California Judges that the San Francisco-based administration has wasted money on itself while forcing trial courts to take big cuts.

The judges should be given an opportunity to air their criticism in public. Those in charge of the courts should be required to respond in public.

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