June 12, 2014

Lawmaker questions move to end court system contract

June 12, 2014 Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma court officials’ decision to terminate a contract on a much-delayed court computer project rankled a state legislator who suggested Wednesday the entire multimillion-dollar venture might need to be scrapped.

Rep. Mark McCullough, the chairman of the House budget committee that oversees funding for the courts, said he was shocked to learn court officials ended its contract with the American Cadastre, or AMCAD, which was helping to build a unified computer system that linked courts from all 77 counties.

“I don’t know where we go from here,” said McCullough, R-Sapulpa. “What’s the motivation of the Legislature to keep the thing going at all?

“It’s hard to justify keeping the program alive when you have these types of decisions.”

The goal of the $13 million project is for Oklahoma to have one of the more comprehensive online systems in the country, but the job was more complex than court officials predicted and has been plagued with delays.

A fund created to pay for the project contains more than $30 million, and lawmakers grappling with a tight budget this year directed court officials to use $10 million to pay for other court operations.

In an email to Oklahoma judges this week, Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Colbert cited the withdrawal of the $10 million as the reason AMCAD’s contract was canceled. He also announced the resignation of two of the court’s top Management Information Services officers.

Budget leaders in the Legislature acknowledged they were caught off guard by the court’s move, and said there is more than enough money in the court fund to pay for the project.

McCullough said he suspects there may be other reasons, besides funding, that court officials decided to end the contract.

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