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Florida's 'Taj Majal' Courthouse Leads to New Rules Against 'Grandiose, Monumental and Luxurious' Facilities

Taj-mahal-courthouse128 I have been following the ongoing reports from Tallahassee, Fla., about a newly-built courthouse that houses the 1st District Court of Appeal of Florida. To make a long story short, it appears that the judges of the 1st DCA somehow managed to accidentally build themselves a "Taj Mahal"-caliber facility that includes "27 flat screen TVs, bathrooms and kitchens for all 15 judges, granite counter- and desktops and miles of African mahogany" among other things, the Miami Herald reports.

I do not know how the planning, funding and construction of a $49 million Taj Mahal could have escaped the notice of everyone involved until it was all-but-completed, but that appears to be the case. Now members of the Florida Senate are up-in-arms about how such a development could have occurred, and "angrily questioned" two 1st DCA judges on Wednesday about the matter, according to Florida Today.

During the hearing, two judges apologized "if the building exceeded legislative intent" and Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady promised to issue an order that would require closer scrutiny of future capital projects for courts.

Sen. Mike Fasano, chair of the Florida Senate's Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee that called the hearing, noted that the new building -- initially estimated to cost $22 million -- will ultimately cost taxpayers more than $70 million after interest is paid on the bond that financed it.

"Somebody had to make this decision" to spend more, Fasano said. "Somebody has to explain that to us. (The Legislature) didn't put the African mahogany in there. We didn't put the granite countertops in there. We didn't ask for two robing rooms. Who signs off on it? Who made that decision? Was it a committee, was it an individual, who?"

"Who" remains a mystery, it seems, but Supreme Court Justice Canady did issue an order yesterday stating that going forward, "[e]very dollar should be spent wisely and with an unceasing awareness that it is hard earned taxpayer money.... Courthouses should be dignified, durable and functional. They should not be grandiose, monumental and luxurious.'' He also reportedly forced Judge Paul M. Hawkes to resign as chief judge of the 1st DCA.

Posted by Bruce Carton on January 18, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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