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The former CEO at the nine-judge Marin County Superior Court spent the equivalent of about 17 work weeks out of the office for conferences, meetings and other business trips since January 2003, according to expense reports. John Montgomery has come under scrutiny by the AOC since his former subordinate, now acting CEO, Kim Turner, brought to the presiding judge’s attention in January that Montgomery owned two houses with consultant Linda Lau, whose employer had received contracts worth $670,000 over the last three years. In the weeks since Montgomery’s abrupt resignation in late March, the AOC has acknowledged it is auditing the court’s operations and investigating the circumstances under which the contracts were awarded. It released Montgomery’s expense reports and the consulting contracts Monday in response to The Recorder and other media requests. Stephen Shaiken, a lawyer representing Montgomery, said Monday that his submitted expenses were all “absolutely” legitimate and related to his work. Court rules require continuing education for CEOs and other court employees, he added, “so Mr. Montgomery’s clearly been doing what the rules require him to do.” Shaiken said it’s up to the court’s judges to set up any procedure they feel should be in place. Noting the relative size of Marin compared with courts like Los Angeles, Shaiken added, “Every single one of those judges knew when Mr. Montgomery was out of town.” From 2003 through his departure this year, Montgomery spent at least 85 days at meetings, conferences, seminars and business trips in more than a dozen cities, from as close as San Francisco to as far-flung as Boston, Milwaukee, Atlanta and Sydney, Australia. Montgomery sought reimbursements for about $28,000 in expenses over the same time period, covering things like association memberships, airplane flights, hotels, bridge tolls and phone bills. The court paid about another $7,400 for other expenses for Montgomery, such as conference and seminar registrations. A few of the items reflect a bit of the Down Under — Montgomery got a membership in the Australian Institute for Judicial Administration, drove around a visiting CEO from a family court in Australia, and expensed lodging and registration for an event in Sydney, though not transportation to get there, records show. “I don’t know how that whole relationship began” with Australia, said Karen Richardson, an assistant court executive officer who signed off on many of Montgomery’s expense forms. Her best guess, she said, is that Montgomery met some Australians many years ago at the Institute for Court Management, a training program for court executives that takes place in the United States but attracts international attendees. He’s since made personal trips to Australia — not on the court’s dime, she noted — and taken an interest in the court system there. He also really liked the Australian band called Midnight Oil, Richardson recalled, calling him something of an Australia-phile. She defended his Australia-related expenditures, saying he had picked up some interesting ideas from the foreign family court system over the years. Asked whether she thought all of Montgomery’s expenses were legitimate, she said, “I can’t really comment on that.” She didn’t have the forms she approved in front of her for reference, she said. She added, “If your boss comes to you and says here’s an expense sheet � you sign it.” She wouldn’t comment on whether having Montgomery’s subordinates sign off on his spending was asking for trouble, but added that she’s “very comfortable” with the fact that the court’s new CEO will have to go elsewhere for approval. Montgomery’s expense forms all appeared to be signed by either Richardson or Turner, who was the other assistant CEO under Montgomery. Richardson said Monday that Montgomery had been operating under the same process the court had used for many years, with Richardson signing off on his reimbursement forms if Turner was unavailable. Turner could not immediately be reached Monday. Richardson said she was only told about a month ago, as a result of the AOC’s audit, that the court should be following a state policy that requires the presiding judge to approve out-of-state travel. “It has not been a mandatory procedure,” she said. The word filtered down to her through others, she said, adding that she was in charge of day-to-day operations at the court while Turner, as the other assistant CEO, oversaw financial and HR matters. In an interview last week, Turner said she had known before approaching Presiding Judge Terrence Boren that Montgomery wasn’t getting all of his out-of-state travel approved by the PJ. “But these were sort of local culture things and it had never been done, so it was not strange that it was not being done,” she said. She brought up the travel issue when she told Boren about Lau and Montgomery owning property together, she said, because she wasn’t sure if the judges knew about the travel. Tina Hansen, director of the AOC’s finance division, sent a memo in March 2004 to every superior court in the state to document policy for out-of-state travel. It says that superior court “travelers” are required to receive advance written approval from the presiding judge or a written designee, and their appropriate manager, prior to traveling outside California. That memo has the force of regulation, Hansen said, although it wasn’t incorporated into the courts’ financial policies manual last year. It will be incorporated into this year’s manual, she added. As for the contracts for Lau’s work, Montgomery’s lawyer questioned whether Marin’s courts had any policies spelling out what qualifies as a conflict of interest. “What we have here is what we call the appearance of a conflict,” said Shaiken, a San Francisco solo. He notes that Lau worked for the county before the courts, and says his client didn’t initiate, negotiate or supervise the contracts between the court and Lau’s employer. “Looking at it and saying he did something bad, that’s two separate matters.” Reporter Warren Lutz contributed to this story.

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